Book Love: Frankenstein Review – A Lack of Love

Hello lovely people!

Although this blog is generally a place for things I love, every so often something will come up that didn’t impress me.  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was one of those somethings.

I read this as part of my challenge for the Classics Club – Frankenstein was one of the classics that I wanted to read.  To be honest though, I don’t really understand how it ever gained ‘Classic’ status in the first place.  I can only assume that it has to do with the era in which it was first written and read.  It was most likely a new idea at that point, and I do understand how the idea of creating a new life form in a lab can capture the imagination.  What the book lacked was a story to build around the idea – even though the full book is only around 150 pages, very little seemed to happen and I felt like the story could have been made even shorter.  Those 150 pages took me a looong time to get through!

I’m sure everyone knows the basic story of Dr Frankenstein, who creates a ‘monster’ in his lab but then becomes terrified of it.  The parts of the book I did quite enjoy were the creature’s narratives.  I thought he was a good character and I might have quite enjoyed a book about his journey and thoughts, as they were unique and realistic (or as realistic as a fictional man-made life form can be!).  Sadly there was just too much space devoted to Frankenstein and his repetitive and pathetic ramblings.  He was a total wet fish, which I don’t generally enjoy in books unless there is a very good reason for them being there (I hated Othello at A-level for this exact reason), and was absolutely horrible to his own creation.  I wasn’t keen on him.

I don’t want to dwell too long on things I didn’t like, so this has been a bit of a speed review, but suffice it to say that I found this book boring, really struggled to finish it and definitely wouldn’t recommend!  Sorry Mary Shelley.

Please let me know in the comments if I was missing something with Frankenstein!  Is it your favourite book and I’m just under-appreciating it?  I’d love to hear why.

Happy Easter And Some Book Love

Hello lovely people,

Happy Easter!

And welcome to longer days now the clocks have gone forward!

I’m spending this Easter Sunday lounging on the couch and making plans.  I’m sorting out work for my final term at uni, looking forward to light evenings and warmer weather, and planning my spring/summer reading.

I’m a member of the Goodreads “College Students” group, who lead two reading challenges every year – one for spring/summer and one for autumn/winter.  The spring/summer 2013 challenge kicks off tomorrow and runs until August 31st, with 36 different challenges.  It’s really relaxed and fun, and a great way to work through your to-read list without being too structured.  If you’re on Goodreads then you should definitely go and check it out – some of the categories this season are to read a book with an Easter-related cover, and to read something to celebrate ‘Eat an Oreo Day’.

If you fancy a look at my rough plan of books-to-read for this challenge, you can see it here.  As you can see, it’s a work-in-progress, so any suggestions for books I should add would be very welcome!

I especially need suggestions for something by P.G. Wodehouse.  I read a compilation of Wodehouse stories before and said then that I wanted to read some of the original books to get to know the characters more.  There’s one challenge here that is to read a funny/comedic book (June 4th is National Do-Dah Day, or Salute to Silliness), which I thought would be a great opportunity to get back into the Wodehouse!  Any tips on where I should start would be wonderful.

I hope you’re having a wonderfully relaxing long Easter weekend.  Let me know what you’re getting up to, and pretty please leave any book suggestions in the comments!

Book Love: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared

Hello lovely people,

This book has been pretty big in the blogosphere (and the internet in general) and I fear I might be a tad behind the times with this review, but I wanted to pop a post up anyway because I really loved it.  At the very least, I’ll be contributing to the massive online love-fest for all things Swedish!

In case you haven’t guessed yet, the book in question is The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.  Bit of a mouthful of a title, but it does introduce the book perfectly.  It’s a pretty nice plot synopsis on its own, to be honest!

While this may not be the best strategy for writing a book review, I don’t really want to say anything at all about the plot because half the fun of this book comes from having no idea what comes next.  All I will say is that you follow the journey of the hundred-year-old man after he climbs out of the window and learn about his life in a parallel story.  And it is marvellous.  Not exactly realistic, but just on the right side of believable to not become entirely ridiculous.

I did find the book funny – not quite laugh-out-loud, but I had a little chuckle to myself on occasion.  It took a little while for me to really get absorbed by the story and the characters, but I think that probably had a lot to do with the  fact that I was reading it on the bus in fits and starts.  By the halfway point, I was totally engrossed.  I also thought the translation from Swedish was fantastic – I didn’t particularly notice it was a translation.  If anything, it gave a great writing style that really suited the story.  I found it very easy to read and follow without being boring.

I reckon my favourite thing about the book was its sheer randomness (I do quite like random connections and coincidences), closely followed by the characters’ totally unique perspectives on life.  If you’re a fan of fun, readable fiction with some meat to it, I completely recommend this.  I got it super-cheap in a Kindle sale, but I think it’s only about 4 quid now if you fancy a quick download.  Or it’s available all over the place in old school paper form.  Go for it!

Book Love: Classics Club Book 1 – Rebecca

You’ll all be thrilled to know, I’m sure, that I did in fact begin my Classics Club challenge last month as planned, but have just now got around to reviewing my first book – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  I picked this up from the Oxfam shop and devoured it in under a week (I was working full days at the same time, so that’s more impressive for me than it sounds!).

I adored this book and genuinely couldn’t put it down – it caused a few late nights of midnight reading, which doesn’t often happen for me with grown-up books.  If you want to read a serious book, but aren’t a fan of Dickens-esqe classics, I would completely recommend Rebecca.  It comes across at first a bit of predictable chick-lit but really is anything but.  There are so many themes and literary references underlying the story and I thought the characters were fantastic.

I didn’t know anything about the story before reading it, and I’m really glad of this so don’t want to give anything away.  I’ll just say that I didn’t find the story totally ridiculous, but it definitely didn’t turn out as I expected and for me it was a total page turner.  On a similar note, I read the Virago edition with the same cover as this picture, but Sally Beauman wrote the introduction in my copy.  If you haven’t read Rebecca before, definitely don’t read the introduction first.  I found it really interesting for adding a bit of literary analysis, but it does give a lot of the story away too.

I’m so glad I bought a copy of this book, because it’s definitely going on my re-reads pile.  Even though I know the story now, I still reckon I’ll get a lot out of the second reading, and I’ll probably pick up on loads that I missed before.  There are a lot of layers to this book, but it’s totally possible to enjoy it without delving into all the detail.

A wonderful start to my Classics Club reading, and I’m definitely off to track down some more Du Maurier books now.  Any recommendations?  I’m totally at a loss for where to go next, so any advice in the comments would be much appreciated!

Book Love: So I finished The Kite Runner

Blimey.  That was a bit emotional.  Blooming marvellous though.

Even though I’ve been hearing wonderful things about Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner for years, I was a bit nervous about reading it.  This is mainly because of everyone’s comments about how moving they found the story, talking about how it stayed with you long after finishing.  Now I am a bit of a lightweight with this kind of thing.  I cried at the Harry Potter books and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I also couldn’t make it more than an hour into the film The Pianist, then couldn’t stop thinking about what I had seen for weeks.  So I was worried that The Kite Runner would just shake me up too much.

I needn’t have worried.  Yes, this is an emotional book which describes some awful events, but it is so beautifully written.  Khaled Hosseini deals with the terrible events in Afghanistan over the past 30 years with so much respect that you can’t help but be drawn in by his story, rather than repulsed by the violence.

I really cannot appreciate gratuitous violence and misery in people’s writing, be it for books, film or TV.  While we cannot ignore that awful things do happen in the world, I see no point in reporting them for their shock value alone.  Some kind of conclusion should be drawn, or point made.

Hosseini includes enough shock to create an image of Afghanistan at war, and later under Taliban rule, while keeping a very strong novel.  Violence enhances what he is trying to say, rather than being all he is saying.

And a lot was said.  I honestly had no idea.  I had no idea what really happened in Afghanistan.  I belong to a generation who has grown up associating the country with war, Muslim extremism, the Taliban, terrorism and destruction, without ever really understanding why.  In school I learned about life in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and even Thatcher’s Britain, but nobody ever taught us what was going on in the modern day world and why.

While this book is by no means a political history lesson, I found it fascinating to read, not only about everyday life under the Taliban, but also about peaceful Afghanistan.  I have no doubt that there were many problems – the main character is told when he returns in the midst of the poverty and destruction that Afghanistan was always like this, he had just been too priveliged to notice – but it was once a country like any other.  It was not always the land of rubble and bombs.  If nothing else, this book has inspired me to find out what happened to that country, rather than being intimidated by seemingly confusing Middle Eastern politics.

So I’m now on the lookout for a good book to explain it to me – any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

There was so much I loved about this book.  The setting and politics were, sadly, entirely realistic and believable, but Amir’s personal story was just poetic and coincidental enough to excite the former English student in me – themes and motifs abound.

I loved the fact that, while pure good and pure evil are certainly embodied in the characters of Hassan and Assef, the vast majority of characters lie somewhere in the middle, in that grey area that most of us spend our whole lives flitting around.  The goodies and baddies are not always clear.

I loved that the USA was hardly brought into the book from a political point of view.  Since the second half of the book takes place in the summer of 2001, while reading this I was on tenterhooks wondering what the September 11th attacks would bring.  But this was not the point.  America is not considered a villian.

On a slight side note, this did set me off wondering when we became so suspicious of the US government’s intentions.  And coincidentally (or maybe not so much, given that it’s the anniverary of the 9/11 attacks) I came across this article on the Guardian website (“Widespread distrust of US extends beyond Middle East”).  But that’s a different topic.

I could say so much more about this book, but I won’t – there’s a lot of hype about it already, and you should read and form your own opinions.  It is an incredibly touching story and somehow manages to be not entirely pessimistic.  I loved it and now can’t wait to get my hands on A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini’s other bestseller.

Book Love: I Love Eat, Pray

While I was in Italy, I listened to a few audiobooks, but due to my aforementioned rubbishness, my thoughts never quite made it onto the blog.  After the disaster that was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I tried Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, who also narrates the audiobook version – a nice touch, I thought.

I had listened to a couple of other audiobooks (A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Stephen Fry’s autobiography), and the national treasure that is Stephen Fry had convinced me with his wonderful narration that the audiobook format wasn’t my problem.  I just really didn’t like that book.  So by the time I got to Eat, Pray, Love, my optimism had returned and I had high expectations.

Happily, I wasn’t disappointed.  Or not at first anyway.  For anyone who managed to escape the mass-media publicity when the film came out, the book is a memoir of a 30-something American woman who heads off to travel around the world and get her life (and head) back together after her messy divorce.  It’s in three sections, as Liz travels to Italy, India and Indonesia, corresponding to the Eat, Pray, Love malarky.  Clever stuff.

Now, this was a bit of a strange choice of book for me, given a good third of it (probably more) is dedicated almost entirely to God and spirituality.  I’ve talked about my feelings on religion before when I read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, but essentially I’m a very convinced atheist, happy to let everyone believe what they want, but curious about why they do.  I have a tendency to find books about people “finding God” and “going on a spiritual journey” frustrating, because I can rarely understand what is motivating them in this, or why they believe what they do.

I did not have this problem at all with Liz Gilbert.  She explained beautifully her view of God and why she felt reassured by feeling close to him.  There is no way I could possibly report her views as eloquently as she writes about them, but I will say that reading this book was one of the times I felt jealous of true, honest, 100% believers.  I was jealous of Liz’s faith, and the calmness and happiness she managed to find in her search for God.  Sometimes I wish I was capable of that kind of belief, but then I accept that my logic simply won’t let me and determine to find my own peace and happiness.  In Liz’s words:

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.

I agree with this woman in so many ways.  Her determination to be confident and at peace really resonated with me.  I also really related to her metaphysical crisis at age 10 – wanting the world to just stop so she could get her head around the concept of time and its passing.  I feel like this so often, especially when I’m happy with my life.  I want to freeze my favourite moments forever, and am almost sad knowing that my happiness will be over soon.

In fact, I related so much to Liz Gilbert’s ideas, and found them so relevant to me and my life (despite being a 21 year old single university student, not a 30-something divorcee journalist), that I’ve re-listened to this book while I’ve been travelling in Central America.  Or some of the book, anyway.

I mentioned that I wasn’t disappointed by Eat, Pray, Love at first.  I adored the first two sections in Italy and India.  Unfortunately, the section in Bali when Liz finally finds love just (dare I say it?) bored me a little.  It wasn’t the greatest slog to get to the end of the book, but on my second time round I cut off after India.  After all, what’s the point wasting time on something you don’t love?

Despite this, I can’t help but recommend this book, and I get the feeling it’s going to be one I keep coming back to when I need a little pick-me-up and someone to put life into perspective.  The tone is not remotely self-pitying and I found it very motivational to keep trying to improve myself.  Well worth the read.