Monday, March 21, 2011

What kind of book are you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

You Are a Hardcover Book

When it comes to reading, you tend to stick to old and modern classics. You are picky about what you read.

You probably anticipate certain books' releases, and you snatch them up the moment they're available.

You have been building a library of books that mean a lot to you. You carefully consider every book before deciding to add it to your collection.

You believe that if a book is worth reading, it's worth paying more to have it in hardcover.

You Are Fantasy / Sci Fi

You have an amazing imagination, and in your mind, all things are possible.

You are open minded, and you find the future exciting. You crave novelty and progress.

Compared to most people, you are quirky and even a bit eccentric. You have some wacky ideas.

And while you may be a bit off the wall, there's no denying how insightful and creative you are.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë - Book Review #130

Friday, March 11, 2011
Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë

Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

Jane Eyre isn’t just a classic; it is the book that inspired other classics, such as Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. It also inspired many other authors. William Makepeace Thackeray called it "the masterwork of great genius." Jane Eyre is proclaimed by thousands of readers the all time favorite. It is not just British classics. It is not only known to the western world. It is internationally famous.

I knew all these praises before I started reading Jane Eyre and regardless, I was certain I will hate it. Why? Oh, just a silly reason: my experience with no less praised and called the most romantic book ever, by Charlotte Brontë’s sister Emily Brontë - Wuthering Heights. Yes, I know that to judge a book of one family member by the book of another doesn’t make much sense, that’s why I called a silly reason.

I vaguely remembered the story of Jane Eyre from a movie adaptation that I saw some years ago, when I still was a child. The bits and pieces I remembered from the movie plus my prejudice against Brontë sisters combined in my head into something ugly. So imagine my surprise, when after initial fifty pages I was finally able to unclench my fingers of the book and realized that I’m actually loving it. I waited for the moment when I will start hating Jane Eyre through the entire book, but it never came. I loved it from the start to finish.

Don’t get me wrong, Jane Eyre isn’t by far my favorite character, no I always agreed with her decisions. However, everything she did, everything she felt, or was afraid of was very characteristic to her and completely logical. Her actions and feelings fitted her perfectly and even if I disagree with something, I understood her.

What I really liked about Jane Eyre as a book, was the writing style. It was uncommon for Victorian book to have a first-person viewpoint narrative. Charlotte Brontë choice of this point of view made the story of Jane Eyre sounds very personal. Through the entire book I had a feeling that I was reading someone’s diary. And even though this someone is long gone, I had a feeling I was reading this diary without permission, so to the curiosity the obscure feeling of guilt was added that made reading process even more interesting and exciting. Not all first-person viewpoint novel create such emotions in me, so I’m guessing, there should be something more to it, which, unfortunately, I can’t pin-point.

Verdict: it is a rare event, as my husband told me, but this time, I’m in agreement with the majority: Jane Eyre is a great book and I advise it to everyone who never read it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray - Book Review #129

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Vanity Fair
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair is a story of two heroines—one humble, the other a scheming social climber—who meet in boarding school and embark on markedly different lives. Amid the swirl of London's posh ballrooms and affairs of love and war, their fortunes rise and fall. Through it all, Thackeray lampoons the shallow values of his society, reserving the most pointed barbs for the upper crust. What results is a prescient look at the dogged pursuit of wealth and status—and the need for humility.

Long before television, long before TV sets, even long before electrification there was love and demand for soap operas; and so they existed. They existed in the form of serialized novels that were published in parts every month. Authors were paid by the word and in many cases didn’t know how or when they will finish a story. Vanity Fair, in my opinion, is a good example of such Victorian soap opera. At least the feeling of soap opera didn’t leave me for a moment while I was reading it.

It took me two weeks to read the first half of Vanity Fair and after that, three months to convince myself to finish it. Like a classic soap operas it had a lot of repetitions, not direct, but in a form of variations. Also, like soap operas it had too much of air time (words, pages) for not too much story. Vanity Fair is too wordy and not for its own good. In my opinion, the plot of the book can be easily fit into tree hundred pages and Thackeray wrote nine hundred.

However, there were some things that I liked about Vanity Fair. Becky Sharp was one of these. She was certainly a refreshing and unusual heroine (or should I say anti-heroine) for a Victorian novel. She distantly reminded me of Scarlett O’Hara. Same as Scarlett, Becky was ready for anything to get what she wanted. Such determination combined with smartness, never leaves me insensitive. There were some really funny moments in Vanity Fair, which was another thing I liked about it. One of the funny moments is when old Sir Pitt Crawley proposes to Becky, however she has to decline, because she is already secretly married to his younger son - Rawdon Crawley and how Becky regrets it, because if she would marry Sir Pitt Crawley she would have became a wife of baronet. It was also very funny how at the end Becky uses her son, that she never cared about to get to Amelia Sedley. And there were some other funny moments… However, I will stop at this, because it is not my intention to retell the whole Vanity Fair in here.

Unfortunately, despite the things that I liked about Vanity Fair, there was one thought that I kept coming back to while reading: “What a drag and when is it going to end?” I am usually not bored by novels written a century, two or more ago. I do not require action to be entertained. However, the lack of action and bunch of unnecessary information are two different things and Vanity Fair was full of the latest. I guess I’m one of the people that do not like neither televisionalized not novelized soap operas.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens - Book Review # 128

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens

The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters—the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

I’ve being staying away from Charles Dickens, because I’ve always considered him to be a British version of Fyodor Dostoyevsky: brilliant, however impossible to read without wanting to kill all characters at first and yourself afterwards. I don’t know where I got this impression from. I don’t know what made me draw parallels between these two authors. Nonetheless, this notion was strong and inviolable.

I only read one Dickens before – A Christmas Carol. I loved it dearly and found no resemblances with Dostoyevsky’s works, which made me doubt my impression until I found out that A Christmas Carol wasn’t your typical Dickens. I was mingling with the idea of reading Dickens for a while and only about two weeks ago I decided that if I will not try him now, I should just cross him out of my under the radar authors list and be done with it. And so I cracked Oliver Twist open.

Oliver Twist was a serialized novel, first published monthly over period of time of two years. Dickens never planned his novels, so when the first part was published already, he had no idea how he will end it. He began Oliver Twist as a social satire; and even though I generally love satire endlessly, Dickens sardonic language was annoying me a great deal. It seemed to me farfetched, forced and somehow cartoonish.

However, as Dickens plans changed with Oliver Twist, so did his language. Closer to the middle of the novel, Dickens started to get attached to Oliver’s character. The story of Oliver Twist became personal for him, as he lived through something similar as a boy. At this point sarcastic language started to fade away and my affection started to grow. By the end of the novel, I admitted that my impression that Dickens resembled Dostoyevsky was completely incorrect.

If Dickens would have planned his novels he should have started Oliver Twist with something like “once upon a time in the land far far away”, because he certainly finished it in a manner of “and they lived happily ever after.” I do like a fairy tales sort of endings. However, in case of Oliver Twist the difference between the beginning and the end is so striking that such ending is utterly out of place. Nevertheless, I don’t consider it to be a Dickens’ fault, I rather think of it as a problem of Victorian tradition to serialize novels.

Overall, I enjoyed Oliver Twist. And to these of you, who have ever started it but couldn’t finish (I know there are lot of people like this), I advise to try sticking with the book until about the middle and I’m sure you will see this novel completely different after that.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fantômas by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain - Book Review #127

Monday, March 7, 2011
by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain

“One episode simply melts away as the next takes over”(The New York Times) in this deliciously sinister turn-of-the-century tale of a French evil genius run rampant. Three appalling crimes leave all of Paris aghast: the Marquise de Langruen is hacked to death, the Princess Sonia is robbed, and Lord Beltham is found dead, stuffed into a trunk. Inspector Juve knows that all the clues point to one suspect: the master of disguise, Fantômas. Juve cleverly pursues him in speeding trains, down dark alleys, through glittering Parisian salons, obsessed with bringing the demon mastermind to justice.

Until recently I had no idea that one of my childhood beloved movie trilogy Fantômas was based on once widely popular book series by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain with alarming number of installments – forty three. After finding it out I could not resist to check out at least the first installment – Fantômas.

I didn’t know much about book series, so I started reading it with impressions from movie trilogy: a light-headed, vaudeville-like story with clumsy, rushed inspector Juve, portrait by Louis de Funès and green-faced comical-like villain Fantômas, played by Jean Marais. And even though in the book inspector Juve turned out to be a smart and pedantic; and Fantômas felt not at all like a make-believe villain; I could not stop giggling and see the great Louis de Funès in Juve and equally great Jean Marais as Fantômas. So I didn’t really get to experience Fantômas as a serious crime fiction as it was meant to be.

It appears to me that Fantômas wasn’t meant to be a mystery, because the identity of Fantômas is easily recognizable at almost the very beginning of the story. Notwithstanding, it didn’t make the story less thrilling or interesting. It was still quite amusing to follow Fantômas’ crimes, notice his mistakes and imperfections that helped inspector Juve in his investigations. It was also quite engaging to follow inspector Juve’s line of inference.

Fantômas is probably one of the greatest French villains created in the twenties century. He is a master of disguise. He is ruthless, smart, with no moral code. He will not stop at anything, neither spare anyone to get what he is after. He uses the latest technology available at the beginning of the twenties century to aid in his crimes. He signal handedly put the police all around France in despair to solve the crimes he committed. He is unbeatable. Or is he really?

I will return to this series with great delight some times in the future, even though, I feel it is going to be quite a challenge to be able to get my hands on all the books from this series. Unfortunately, once widely popular, this series nowadays are hardly known to anyone.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Booking Through Thursday #3

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Booking Through Thursday asks:

Do you cheat and peek at the ends of books? (Come on, be honest.)

Ok, I will be honest. I used to do that all the time when I was a child. I used to read first chapter, than the last one and after that everything in between and not necessary in chronological order.  

However, in a while I understood that the knowledge by itself that John is a killer, that Mary and Tom are together, that Jessica survived and Janet didn’t make it, that some safely returned home and some didn’t is not satisfactory to me. I don’t only want to know that John was a killer, I want to know how and why he killed, I want to know his motives and his thoughts, so basically I want to read the whole book and I want to know the whole story.  

In a while, I understood that I’m robbing myself of the story and I’m not getting any gratification in the information received. So I stopped and I now I never peek at the ends of books. Yes, I have to admit that sometimes I’m tempted. However, I’m stopping myself, promising much greater satisfaction when I read the end at the end, as it was meant to be. And honestly, this is always the case for me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - Book Review #126

Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley

"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley's utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young woman has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow.

I started to read Brave New World with huge prejudice. After I read We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, I read a lot of different things on the subject. One of these things was about the influence of We on 1984 by George Orwell; and how George Orwell suggested that We also influenced Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; and how Aldous Huxley denied it. It isn’t actually important if any of these things are true or not. It doesn’t actually matter if We had anything to do with Brave New World or not. Thousands of literally works were influenced by Shakespeare’s plays and it doesn’t make these works either bad or good by default. However, even understanding all of that, I still couldn’t get out of it and started to read Brave New World with huge prejudice and not a positive one. I’m not sure how much of this prejudice got into way of shaping my opinion on Brave New World. But hey, none of us can ever be completely objective; all of us have past and our own package that determines our way of thinking, our opinions and our decisions.

So with this explanatory preface, I’m coming out in the open finally: I did not like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I know that almost like all the western world is totally and completely in love with this book. Unfortunately, I’m not one of these followers. I don’t even want to try to determine the cause of this dislike; I will only list what I didn’t like.

I pretty much didn’t like the whole book: it was boring, uneventful and awkwardly structured. I didn’t care for or liked any of characters with exception of Mustapha Mond - Resident World Controller of Western Europe. He was the only character worth mentioning, in my opinion. I didn’t find anything new or original in Brave New World; not ideas, not even a new perspective on old ideas. Maybe it is because this book itself became a classics and cliché for its greatness and now, eighty years after its first publication, nothing is new in it, because everything from it was reused and not once. However, even then, at the time of its first publication, it still wasn’t the first to present ideas in the way it did. Nevertheless, this is not important, because I promised not to analyze why I didn’t like one thing or another about this book. I also wasn’t very impressed with Aldous Huxley’s writing style: it was dry and uninvolved, with the small exception of conversation between the John the Savage and Mustapha Mond at the end.

I will stop at this point, bashing everyone’s favorite book to preserve my dignity and spare other people’s feelings. I’m not recommending this book for two very obvious, from my review, reasons: first, everyone is already reading and loving it; and the second, I didn’t like it, so why would I recommend it? From where I stand, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin deserve much more attention.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - Book Review #125

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighborhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawford's influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen's most profound works.

Mansfield Park is my third Jane Austen, after Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice; and I still have quite unsettled opinion on her works. My opinion varies on her books from love to hate and everything in between depending on time of the day, my mood and whatever particular scene from any of these three books I’m thinking about.

I heard that many people particularly dislike and consider Mansfield Park one of the worst Jane Austen’s books. As far as I understood, this negative opinion mostly formed on disfavor towards main character – Fanny Price. I would have to disagree with that opinion. I could probably see why Fanny is a character that most of the people wouldn’t like. Most of the reviewers call her boring. I could see where this is coming from. Fanny is not your regular lovable, strong rebellion that openly fights against something she disagrees with. She is not the character that trying to break old conservatives, senseless regulations. She is shy, tranquil and timid. She settles with her situation; she settles with bulling from her aunt and most of her cousins. However, in this settlement for conservative and “boring” way of living, if you like, Fanny actually fights against open frivolities of her cousins and Crawfords. Fanny is definitely not a part of glamorous, corrupt and “fun or interesting”, if you like, society. Her shyness, weakness and the fact that she finally made to oppose the society she disagrees with, make her even more interesting and courageous character. This small, mousy looking, unimportant girl is ready to go against her family, her benefactors, risk everything she have, because she knows she is right, because she is the only one who wasn’t blinded by glitter of corruption. So despite the popular opinion, I really did like Fanny as a character.

We have all been more or less to blame ... every one of us, excepting Fanny

I like Jane Austen stories. I like her characters. I like her wit. Her writing style is something that I’m not a big fan of. I understand that Austen didn’t have many examples to work with and her Sense and Sensibility novel considered by some as the first English modern novel. However, still, even considering all above, I cannot love Austen prose. It seems somehow very isolated and reductive. There is no influence on the story from outside. It seems to be closed in one manor that has no connections with outside world’s politics or economics. Austin’s works are not something that can be called atmospheric. There are also not many descriptions of characters, settings or attires. The scenes from middle section in Mansfield Park were dragging and unnecessary starched out. At the same time, the ending was rushed and crumpled.

Overall, I would say that I liked Mansfield Park more than I disliked it. As it seems to be a case for Austen’s works, it was a nice story with the happy ending, where everyone gets precisely what they deserve.