Book Reviews · Reading

Mini Reviews: Books 90 – 81

Yay! I have officially finished 20 books from the Telegraph’s 100 greatest novels of all time!

I also achieved my Goodreads goal for the year so double yay!

Here is an overview and mini reviews of books 90 – 81 on the list (you can find the mini reviews of books 100 – 91 here.)

# 90: Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Grade: D

Favorite Quote:

What prevented the closure of this mutually rewarding deal? My principles. Surely there must be some way around. In similar fixes I have rarely failed to find one.

Mini Review:

Well, the above quote says it all; an unprincipled story of a man who is a lazy, immoral, opportunistic bum. Was I entertained a bit? Maybe .. but nothing else really.

You can read the full review here.

# 89: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Grade: F

Favorite Quote:

There’s a great black mountain. It’s human stupidity. There are a group of people who push a boulder up the mountain. When they’ve got a few feet up, there’s a war, ot the wrong sort of revolution, and the boulder rolls down – not to the bottom, it always manages to end a few inches higher when it started.

Mini Review:

I don’t really know why they called it the golden notebook, it should’ve been the grey or black notebook as it was a huge book of darkness, depression and degeneration of society. I did not like or enjoy this book at all.

You can read the full review here.

# 88: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

Grade: A

Favorite Quote:

But whom to love? To trust to treasure?

Who won’t betray us in the end?

And who’ll be kind enough to measure

Our words and deeds as we intend?

Who won’t sow slander all about us?

Who’ll coddle us and never doubt us?

To whom will all our faults be few?

Who’ll never bore us through and through?

You futile, searching phantom-breeader,

Why spend your efforts all in vain;

Just love yourself and ease the pain,

My most esteemed and honoured reader!

A worthy object! Never mind,

A truer love you’ll never find.

Mini Review:

I absolutely loved this book. It was a breath of fresh air after The Golden Notebook. It was witty and clever and very entertaining. Highly recommend it.

You can read the full review here.

# 87: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Grade: F

Favorite Quote:

n/a

Mini Review:

The Telegraph says Kerouac wrote the book in “three near-sleepless weeks” and it clearly shows. It was 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

You can read the full review here.

# 86: Old Man Goriot by Honore de Balzac

Grade: A-

Favorite Quote:

The more coldly calculating you are, the further you will go. Strike ruthlessly and you’ll be respected.

Mini Review:

I really enjoyed this classic cleverly depicting French high society and heart wrenchingly showing how money can sometimes be more important than everything, even one’s own parents.

You can read the full review here.

# 85: The Red and the Black by Stendhal

Grade: C

Favorite Quote:

I have loved truth .. Where is truth? .. Everywhere hypocrisy .. Man cannot put his trust in man.

Mini Review:

The book was OK, just OK. Felt like it was a wanna be Romeo and Juliet and I didn’t really like the characters much.

You can read the full review here.

# 84: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Grade: A

Favorite Quote:

As a general rule .. people ask for advice only in order not to follow it; or if they do follow it, in order to have someone to blame for giving it.

Mini Review:

I absolutely loved this book! Might even be my favorite so far on this list.

You can read the full review here.

# 83: Germinal by Emile Zola

Grade: D

Favourite Quote:

Violence has never prospered, you can’t remake the world in a day. Anyone who promises to change everything for you all at once is either a fool or a rogue!

Mini Review:

A political manifesto, a failed attempt at a revolution, a realistic depiction of the horrible life of miners. I did not enjoy reading this book at all.

You can read the full review here.

# 82: The Stranger by Albert Camus

Grade: C

Favorite Quote:

After a while, you could get used to anything.

Mini Review:

I didn’t like it and I didnt hate it. A short awkward story devoid of emotions about a killing.

You can read the full review here.

#81: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Grade: C

Favorite Quote:

Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.

Mini Review:

The book can be divided into two main themes: the murder mystery which I loved, and the theology conversations which I didn’t. But overall, i did enjoy the book and it does get better after the 200 page mark as the action picks up.

You can read the full review here.

‐-‐—————–‐——————————————–

And there it is. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I have been pleasantly surprised by some and dissapoinyed by some.

Breaking it down, French authors have the lead; a nobel prize winner was a complete flop; two of my favorites are by Alexanders, and being on the road was not what i always dreamt it would be.

Looking forward to the next 10 on the list.

Till next time .. Happy reading ❤

Book Reviews · Reading

Book Review: The Stranger by Albert Camus

Book: The Stranger by Albert Camus

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

Grade: C

What is the story about?

The story is about a French Algerian, Meursault, who finds himself committing a crime, shooting an Arab 5 times.

Verdict?

I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. After finishing the book, I don’t hold any strong feelings for the character or the story to be honest.

The book was a very short and quick read (123 pages). At first it was awkward a bit. Thought it might be from the translation but I think it’s deliberate to build up the characters awkward personality.

I don’t know why people are so bothered by his nonchalant character and lack of empathy. Honestly, maybe I just feel this way because I read much worse books on this list lol. But his attitude is real, it’s not overdone or made up. It’s real. It’s just the way the world is now (and I guess back when the book was written too).

What annoyed me the most is that there was no definite closure to the book. Was he executed or did he get his pardon? Most likely I think he got his pardon because that’s the way life is .. isn’t it? People are almost always pardoned when it’s a crime against a minority .. sad but very true.

I think the major debate and uproar about this book is Meursault’s lack of empathy or concern for his crime. Coming from a person who is over emotional about everything, I almost envy his thick skin. Of course not to the point of shooting a guy 5 times just because you’re bothered by the sun. But the thick skin that will make you resilient and can adapt to any situation thrown at you.

All in all, a short read that to me was just mediocre.


Next read:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. The novel is set in a 14th century Italian monastery .. should be interesting.

Till next time ❤

Book Reviews · Reading

Germinal Book Review

Book: Germinal by Emile Zola

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

Grade: D

What is the story about?

The story follows Etienne, a newcomer to a mining village who quickly got frustrated by the poverty and degrading standard of living that he started a strike, in the hopes of triggering, germinating, a revolution.

Verdict?

I get it. I get why this book is considered an important piece of work but to be honest, I didn’t enjoy reading this book at all.

First of all, I don’t like politics. To me there is no right or wrong sides as it is all dirty business. Everyone is in it for themselves and their personal gains. It’s all about the money and power and what you can achieve for yourself at the expense of other people. So I think its a bunch of crap when a politician comes out and says he is fighting for the people. And my point is even proven in this book.

Etienne, who was supposed to fight for the people, felt above them because he was “educated” and they weren’t. He dreamed of glory and furthering his popularity for his personal gains. Then when what he wanted didn’t happen, he felt disgusted by his followers.

As he puts it, he calls them “wretched people” who makes him feel “repugnance and unease.” He even calls them “dumb animals” who are “primitive and lack intelligence.”  His selfishness is so annoying that when he goes down and checks the abandoned mines, every time he rejoices at a rock-fall I wished that a rock fall will crush him in.

The politics is all summed up by a ruthless but honest man in the book: “It’s all nonsense .. They’ll never get anywhere with that nonsense.”

So as you can see, I don’t really like politics.

And not just that. I love to read so I can have an hour or so after I put my four kids to sleep, in peace and quiet, and be transported into an imaginary world in literature.

I did not want to spend this quiet hour reading about a hopeless horse facing despair in his final second gasping for death before he died .. or about the starving death of a child .. or about the mutilation of a dead body.

If you want to read a political manifesto, a failed attempt of a revolution from comrades against bourgeoise, exploitation of all kind, a realistic depiction of the horrible life of miners .. then this book is for you.

If you are like me .. then I would skip it.


Next book: The Stranger by Albert Camus

Another book I know nothing about except that one of my Instagram followers said she did not enjoy it much, We’ll see how it goes.

Happy reading ❤

Book Reviews · Reading

The Three Musketeers Book Review

Book: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

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

Grade: A

What is it about?

The novel follows the adventures of D’Artagnan, a brave handsome young man, in his quest to be a musketeer. Although he couldn’t join the elite group at first, he quickly became best friends with the best musketeers out there: Amos, Porthos & Aramis (the 3 musketeers). D’Artagnan and the three musketeers then go on an unforgettable adventure.

Verdict?

This is by far the best and my most favorite book I read on this list, maybe even one of the best I read in years.

True, the book doesn’t hold profound insights or offer amazing discoveries .. but it does tell one heck of a story.

The novel is 600+ pages (my version was around 350 only because the book was big in size, as in textbook size) but you don’t even feel it. You don’t feel like it was slow at some parts or feel like there are fillers in the middle. It was like watching a movie unfold in your head while reading.

Also, I did not meet one character in this novel that I did not like. D’Artagnan is so relatable and lovable (unlike M. Julien Sorrel in the previous book I read.) You’re just rooting for him throughout the entire novel. And the three musketeers are simply amazing! Each one has a distinct character and are so well crafted by Dumas, almost felt like they were my best friends too.

I also like the villains in this story. The unwavering ambition of the Cardinal who will reach his goal at ay cost is so very real. As for Milady, savage as my son would say. I also loved that the strongest most intimidating villain in this novel was a lady. Ladies are usually drawn as petty, feeble, weak, and most times stupid. This woman on the other hand .. savage!

The only blah character in this novel was the King, which I believe was a subtle political statement of how kings are. Also making the reason of war between England and France a love affair is another strong political statement. What is war and thousands of deaths to the importance of a Duke’s love affair and a king’s pride?

15 books into this list and by far my favorite are French authors (and a Russian I have to add). Loved, loved this book! Can’t wait to get a hold of the movie and watch it with my husband, who by the way has a mustache and every time the musketeers twist theirs reminds me of him .. my own real life musketeer. ❤


Next book: Germinal by Emile Zola. Another French author. Yay can’t wait!

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 ❤