Book Reviews · Reading

The Red and the Black Book Review (#85)

Book: The Red and the Black by Stendhal

#85 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: C

What is the story about?

The story follows Monsieur Julien Sorrel and his rise from obscurity, the son of a carpenter in the countryside, to fame in the posh Paris salons.

Verdict?

I really wanted to like this book .. but to be honest .. it’s just meh.

I left the book with an impression of reading a wana-be Romeo and Juliet but not quiet getting there.

In the end I felt like everyone was in love with Julien except for me. He actually annoys me for most of the book. He was too full of himself and thought the world revolves around him.

I also didn’t like the ladies in the book. Mme de Renal was a good wife and mother until Julien came along. Then it’s like she loses her mind and forgets everything she ever believes in when she gazes in his dreamy eyes.

As for Mlle Mathilda .. Oh my. She is a spoilt girl who enjoys getting things she can’t have .. but then loses interest as soon as she actually gets them.

The only character I liked was M. de la Mole, who was wronged by almost every character in the book.

If I have read this book back in my teens when I was a hopeless romantic .. maybe I would’ve liked the story more.

But for now .. it’s just meh.


Next book: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

I used to call my sisters and I the three musketeers. will be nice to know their real story..

Till next time ❤

Book Reviews · Reading

Old Man Goriot Book Review (#86)

Book: Old Man Goriot by Honore de Balzac

#86 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A-

What is the story about?

The story is about Eugene de Rastignac, a student coming from a loving family from the South pursuing his education in Paris. He lodged in Madame Vaquer’s boarding house where he met Old Man Goriot as well as other interesting characters. Here, he learned the workings of Paris’ upper society.

Verdict?

Before I get into this review, you have to know one thing about me: I’m a classics girl. After reading a number of books in this list from different genre’s, it was very nice and comforting to read a classic, it’s like going back home again after a wonderful whirlwind adventure.

And what a classis this is! I loved it and really enjoyed reading it. It’s not like most classics where its very slow in the beginning then it picks up. It was interesting from the start.

About society .. my mom used to always talk about the ‘good old days’, how life was simpler, people had more respect and values. This book shows that no not really. Since the 1800’s (and I’m sure even before that), it was, is, and always will be about the money.

When Rastignac saw the workings of society, he gave up on his studies because he knew it won’t get him anywhere. It’s all about your connections, who you know and who can take you places, and your street smarts too.

He also knew that wealth brings power and respect. He knew that he had to look the part so he can be accepted in the highest circles of society. So he borrowed money from his mom and sisters knowing very well they really needed it, but he had to get it so he can be seen in the correct waistcoat. And surely enough when he was dressed correctly, he earned people’s respect.

Just like in this day if you drive a monster of a car that costs a fortune, people show respect on road. And I’m sure many inappropriate incidents were laughed off just because the perpetrators are filthy rich.

Another theme that I really enjoyed in this book is human nature. Take Vautrin for example. He is the famous villain in Balzac’s novels. Even though he was a runaway convict, you can still see he has some good in him. Then you have people like Mademoiselle Michonneou, a vile spinster who talks behind everyones back, lives for gossip, and would sell her own mother for money. As Vautrin himself says “we bear less infamy on our shoulders than any of you do in your hearts.”

Another theme that Balzac got into is marriage, which he painted in a very bleak way. No wife in this book is loyal to her husband and none are happy with this institution they are in. Though I agree with most of Balzac’s ideas presented in this book, this is one that I do not agree with.

This leads us to the most important event in this book, which is, as a parent, truly heart wrenching to read.

Old man Goriot is a selfless loving father of two girls (Rastignac was in love with one of them). He gave everything to his two girls, he lives for them. They, on the other hand, are ungrateful kids who only come to their father when they need money. One of them went crying to Goriot because she doesn’t have a decent gown to wear to the ball. Her father, who was already sick, took all he owned and sold it just to get the 1000 francs she needed for her gown. She then sent her maid to collect the money and didn’t even have the decency to collect it herself.

The other one, Rastignac himself said that “he sensed that she would walk over her father’s dead body to get to the ball,” which in the end both daughters did as they were not present at their father’s deathbed, burial, or funeral. It was really painful to read the loving father call out painfully for his daughters but not finding them there next to him when he needed them most.

What I didn’t really get (which is why my rating has a minus in it) is the ending, but it might be lost in translation a bit (think if I read it in French it will be clearer). My version ends with Rastignac telling the city of Paris: “Now let us fight it out!” which I wasn’t sure if he meant he will fight society because of what it did to his dear old Goriot, which he regarded as a father figure by the end.

But I know in other version the line was translated differently and the word ‘fight’ wasn’t used. So did Rastignac fight the social injustices he saw, or did he yield to the social norms and accept them to move forward?

When I further looked into it, looks like he chose the latter path as apparently, the word ‘Rastignac’ is now used in France to name a social climber, who will do anything to better his social status.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was entertaining and full of meaning in almost every page. A true classic!


Next book:

#85 on the list: The Reb and the Black by Stendhal .. another classic!

Happy reading 🙂

Book Reviews · Reading

On the Road Book Review (#87)

Book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

# 87 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: F

What is the story about?

The book is basically about a road trip, or several trips that the main character, Sal, and his best friend Dean go on.

Verdict?

I did it! I finished the book!

I persevered and powered through endless nonsense, more nonsense, and even more nonsense.

Sometimes I read a book on this list and say: Yes! This is exactly why I started this journey following this list .. to get out of my comfort zone and find a gem of a book.

Not this time. This time is the time where you think: how in the world did this book land on this list?!

The Telegraph says Kerouac wrote the book in “three near-sleepless weeks” and it clearly shows. He must’ve been drunk too because it’s not really a coherent story.

It’s like having my almost 3 year old talking about Peppa Pig then jumping to what happened in preschool then teasing her younger brother then going back to Peppa Pig again. Only difference is my 3 year old’s babbling is actually more interesting and cuter than the incoherent ramblings of Kerouac.

It’s like having a narrow minded, arrogant frat boy showing off his conquests and going on and on about his endless partying, drinking, girls, and outings.

Although I read some book’s I did not enjoy on this list, this is the first book that I have no favorite quotes from.

Maybe you have to be drunk to find one?


Next book: Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac. I’ll be happy if this book actually has a point to it.

Book Reviews · Reading

Eugene Onegin Book Review (#88)

Book: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

#88 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A

What is the story about?

Simple answer: Eugene Onegin. Follows a part of his life and covers everything from love, friendship, society, values, and life in general.

Verdict?

I decided that I love Pushkin even more than Shakespeare.

While Shakespeare writes in beautiful lyrical verses, his words and stories are so magical but out of this world. They can’t happen in real life, melodramatic tragedy.

Pushkin, on the other hand, is like chatting to your best friend. It’s like having a witty and fun conversation with your close friend and the irony and satire makes you laugh out loud.

Even though this is a tragedy in all sense of the word, it’s funny, witty, clever and so well written that I now feel like if I ever somehow meet Pushkin, and speak Russian, we would hit it off immediately.

Keep in mind this is a translation so hats off to Mr. James E. Falen. I’m sure it’s not easy to translate from Russian, especially while trying to capture the essence of it and keeping the rhyme in this novel written in verse.

So imagine reading it in Russian!

When I know this was a novel written in verse I was skeptical and honestly dreaded to read it. But I loved it!

It was a quick and light read. It was clever and witty. It was insightful and sad. It was simply amazing!

No wonder it turned into the famous opera act composed by Tchaikovsky!

Out of all the books I read on this list so far, this was the most novel I can relate with when it comes to views of social norms and life overall. Funny the novel I saw myself the most in was one set in 1820’s imperial Russia, but that just shows you how clever and timeless Pushkin is.

If you get a chance to read this book, please do. You won’t regret it!


Next book: # 87 on the list: On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Again a book I know nothing about, excited to read it!

Till next time ❤

Book Reviews · Reading

Mini Reviews Books 100 – 91

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating and happy holidays!

I finally finished the first 10 books on the Telegraph’s 100 greatest novels of all time. (well not really I stopped reading 2 books based on principle, more on this below).

So here it is: an overview and mini reviews of the first 10 books on the list.

# 100: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

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Grade: A
Favorite Quote:

Some believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I’ve found. I found it is the small things. Every day deeds by ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. – Gandalf

Mini Review:

I usually hate anything too whimsical and unrealistic. I need to be able to relate to something to love it so imagine my great surprise when I LOVED this book. Tolkien is a genius! Amazing read!

Click here to read the full review.

# 99: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Grade: B
Favorite Quote:

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Mini Review:

Great book, wonderful moral and very powerful message. That being said, I understand why the book is studied at middle school (high school) levels. Can’t wait till my kids get to read it!

Click here to read the full review.

# 98: The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

homeandtheworld

Grade: C
Favorite Quote:

What I really feel is this, that those who cannot find food for their enthusiasm in a knowledge of their country as it actually is, or those who cannot love men because they are men, – whose needs must shout and deify their country in order to keep up their excitement, – those love excitement more than their country.

Mini Review:

It is an honor to read a book written by a man who wrote the Indian National Anthem and get a greater understanding of the political struggles in the region at that time. But, its philosophical writing made it a bit of a hard read for me.

Click here to read the full review.

#97: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Grade: C
Favorite Quote:

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

Mini Review:

This to me is a one liner book. On the book back cover, the Washington Post Book World calls it “inspired lunacy.” I think it’s more of lunacy with some inspiration scattered through.

Click here to read the full review.

# 96: One Thousand and One Nights by Anon

1001 nights

Grade: n/a (stopped reading based on principle)

I honestly can’t believe this book is so popular and considered one of the classics. The racism, sexuality, and vulgarity in it is repulsive. I not only refuse to continue reading it, but refuse to actually have it in my home.

# 95: The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Goethe

werther

Grade: D
Favorite Quote:

All the high-flown schoolteachers and tutors agree that children do not know why they want; but that grown-ups too tumble around like children on the face of the earth, not knowing where they come from or where they are going, acting as little from true purpose, and just as ruled by biscuits and cakes and birch rods: no one really wants to believe that …

Mini Review:

The story was very sad; not as in heartbreaking sad, but pathetic sad, Young Werther, Come on! Be a man, get over it and move on.

Click here to read the full review.

# 94: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

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Grade: A
Favorite Quote:

… where the truth is what it is instructed to be, reality quite literally ceases to exist

Mini Review:

Beautiful. Amazing story where history comes alive and emotions are so raw, your heart aches for them. Loved it!

Click here to read the full review.

# 93: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre

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Grade: A
Favorite Quote:

“We’ve had enough.” He took back the report and jammed it under his arm. “We’ve had a bellyful, in fact.” “And like everyone who’s had enough,” said Control as Alleline noisily left the room, “he wants more.”

Mini Review:

This is not an action filled spy story but a gripping psychological thriller that is so beautifully written. It will keep you engaged and intrigued from beginning to end.

Click here to read the full review.

# 92: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

cold-comfort-farm-673x1024Grade: C
Favorite Quote:

Here was an occasion, she thought, for indulging in that deliberate rudeness which only persons with habitually good manners have the right to commit…

Mini Review:

Apparently, this book is a satire. And going through this book, you really do feel like the writer is trying to make a joke, but you don’t really know at who or why you should laugh. So yeah, I don’t get the joke really.

Click here to read the full review.

#91: The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki

genji

Grade: n/a (stopped reading; based on principle .. again)

Second book from this list (and ever) that I decide to stop reading. I approached this list with an open mind, just like I approached this book. I was adamant on finishing all the books I read, no matter how ‘boring’ they are.

But, I realized, there are books that I can’t read based on what I personally believe and my principals.

Just like the 1001 nights, I stopped reading this book when Genji kidnapped a child from her home and forced her to sleep next to him even when she was crying for her nanny. That was it for me really.

There it is. Overviews and mini reviews of the 1st 10 books on the Telegraph’s 100 greatest novels of all time.

It only took me over a year to finish these. At this rate, it will take me 10 years to finish the list lol. Hopefully now that my almost one year old boy is staring to sleep better, I can get more reading done.

Next read:

Under the Net by Doris Lessing. I always get excited when its a book I know nothing about. Hope it is good and I get to write the next 10 reviews in less than a year.

Happy reading!

Book Reviews · Reading · Uncategorized

Cold Comfort Farm Book Review (#92)

Book: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

#92 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: C

What is the story about?

The story follows the adventure of Flora Poste, a 19 year old recently orphaned young woman, who decided to go live with her relatives, the Starkadder’s, on Cold Comfort Farm. She quickly took it upon herslef to clean up their gloomy lives and ‘make things right.’

Verdict:

I don’t really know what to make of this book really. Apparently, it is a satire. It is a parody on Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, and the Bronte sisters’ work although i can’t really see the connection at all. (I am very familiar with the Bronte sisters and Austen’s work, not so much Lawrence.)

Going through this book, you really do feel like the writer is trying to make a joke, but you don’t really know at who or why you should laugh. So yeah, I don’t get the joke really.

As for the storyline, Flora Poste makes herself out to be the Fairy God Mother of Cold Comfort Farm. She first transforms Elfine into Cinderella, helps Seth be a movie star, and sets everyone in the right direction so they can finally achieve their ‘happily ever after’. Then suddenly, at the end of the book, she remembers that she is only 19 years old and sadly, did not get her happily ever after and calls her lover to come whisk her away to find her own happiness.

I would’ve given this book a D except that it was an easy and pleasant read. So Gibbons’ writing style is the only thing that pushes my rating to a C .. barely though.

————————- Next Read —————————-

#91 on the list: The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shibiku.

This is the 3rd bok on this list that can be used as a weapon as well (1000+ pages). The first I loved and still holds the top ranking of books I read in this list, the second I refused to finish (1001 Arabian Nights) because of its vulgarity and racism, and actually gave it away as I do not want it anywhere in my house.

And this is my thrid. We’ll see how it goes .. though being written 1000 years ago makes me a bit worried lol..

Happy reading!

Book Reviews · Reading

Book: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (#93)

Book: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre

#93 on the 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A

What is the story about?

The story is about the British secret service, called the ‘Circus’ in the novel. There seems to be a mole within the spying agency. George Smiley, a retired member of the circus, was called in to sniff out the spy. But the question remains: “Who can spy on the spies?”

Verdict:

All I knew about this book before picking it up was that it is a British spy novel. I was hoping it to be like a James Bond movie. Turns out, it was much better!

Thinking of spies, you usually think of gun totting action in the dark. But this book was filled with intense psychological action instead of physical.  True, it was a bit confusing at first with all the characters (at one point I thought JP and control were the same person lol) and there was a lot of industry related jargon that some I still don’t know what they are, but the story line was amazingly written and gripping from beginning to end.

John le Carre is a pseudoname to a man who actually worked in this field (spying or intelligence gathering). Only a person who was on the inside can write a story so realistic. It is not one of those: Oh I am a superhero spy that can jump on buildings and walk through walls. It shows the painstaking work that goes with being a spy, the going through numerous files for days on end, cross referencing and trying to find one discrepency to catch a lie.

** mini spoiler **

The book is generally about espionage, trust, and loyalty. There’s a British mole who sold his country and friends out to the Russians. He tried to explain later that he did so on the grounds of morality and principle. Who’s side are you on in the cold war? Who do you want to win which inevitablly means whose ideals do you want to win and want to live under? This British gentlemen chose the East’s ideals, thus betraying his long time coworkers and friends by feeding the opposition with crucial info and busting all the circus’ missions, and by betraying the man who loved him. Which takes us to the next important theme: love.

George Smiley loved his wife dearly. This was his downfall, as Karla (the head of Russian spies) believed. He ordered his mole to court Ann, Smiley’s wife. He said this will distort his image of the mole if he knew his wife loved him. It will also affect him when he knows that everyone around him knows that his wife is sleeping around with his trusted coworker. And it worked.

Then there is the fatherly love that Guillam had towards the mole. He saw him as his mentor and wanted to be just like him. And lastly, there is JP’s love to the mole. The mole recruited JP at Oxford and their relationship is hinted to be a romantic one. JP had a feeling that his lover was the mole and actually tried to warn him before JP went on the mission that was supposed to reveal the mole’s identity.

At the end, the mole was captured. A day or two before he went to Russia, he was found dead on the grounds next to where he was held. Who killed him? It was never stated in the book .. but you get the feeling that JP killed him.

This brings us to the different reactions people have towards betrayal.

His friends and coworkers were visibly shaken, but left knowing their lives will go on. His superior was angry but accepted responsibility and acted accordingly.

As for the people who were in ‘love’, Guillam was physically angry at his paternal idol. He sprang forward at him to show his anger and disdain. He expalined that moment as being “orphaned”. His ‘illusion’ was shattered and he finally had “grown up”.

Then there was JP, who is thought to have cracked his lovers neck for the ultimate betrayal.

Then there is George Smiley, the level headed man who even Karla vouched for his excellence. Smiley accepted the betrayal and waited for his wife’s return, which may be seen as an act of forgiveness in the face of betrayal.

The “last illusion of the illusionless man” Karla has said about Ann’s worth to George.

Is love an illusion, as Karla describes it? If so, how will you behave faced with betrayal by this illusion?

I think my reaction would be closer to George’s, though i know for sure my love is not an ‘illusion’.

———————————————- Next Book —————————————–

My next book is Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Goodreads says the book “is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life” .. The last book i read that portrays British rural life was the most boring book i ever read in my whole entire life (book review here). Here’s to hoping this one is better..

Happy reading!