callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Genre: Horror
Length
: 211 pp.
Progress (pages): 211/20,000 pp. (1.1%)
GradeA

Amazon Summary: There is no greater novel in the monster genre than "Frankenstein" and no more well known monster than the one that is at the center of this novel. However, the monster of "Frankenstein" is more than the common lumbering moronic giant that is most often represented. "Frankenstein's" monster is in reality a thinking intelligent being who is tormented by world in which he does not belong. In this depiction Shelley draws upon the universal human themes of creation, the nature of existence, and the need for acceptance. For it is without this acceptance that the true monster, the violent nature of humanity, emerges.

My ThoughtsThis was the book my English teacher assigned over Christmas break. At first, I did not expect that I would enjoy it, because horror is not my genre. I had heard of Frankenstein, of course -- who hasn't? -- but all I knew about the story was the common scene we all remember: Frankenstein standing over his creation, yelling "It's aliiiiiive" when the creature's eyes open for the first time. All I expected was the common monster story, but as it is a classic, I should have expected more than that. I didn't expect much from this book other than some sort of sick enjoyment, but I found entrenched in this novel statements about acceptance, creation, existence, and how people often judge purely on appearances without bothering to see the person beneath. I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

Frankenstein was slightly hard to get into at first, because I had to get used to the writing style and to be frank, the beginning was rather dry. Not much happened, and the letters at the beginning merely served as development of a character we don't see again until the very end of the novel. As the novel progressed, things got more interesting. I found the story of Frankenstein's past rather boring, especially his education, but as soon as we got to the parts about Frankenstein learning how to create life, I found that the book captured my interest. The unveiling of the "monster" was also very well-done.

The story really took off -- for me, at least -- when we saw Frankenstein and his monster confront each other for the first time. Although the death of two major characters, William and Justine, was a climactic moment in  the novel, the story of Frankenstein's monster intrigued me like nothing else. I felt for the monster. He wasn't created evil, but it was merely the neglect and hatred of him, based purely on his appearance, that drove him to become the bloodthirsty, murderous creature he was in the middle of the novel. His story made me wonder what could have happened, if Frankenstein had instead reached out to his creation, instead of pushing him away with cries of "Wretched creature!" because of his outwardly grotesque appearance.

The creature was not wretched -- not in the least. In the early years of his creation, he was gentle and kind. He took an interest in his "protectors," as he called them, cutting firewood for the poor family and clearing snow away from the door so that they did not have to do it themselves. He was interested in learning how to comprehend speech, and even learned how to read and write better than most of the humans of that time. He thirsted for knowledge, and he did not understand how people could be so harsh and cold toward each other. Just like every human being on the face of the planet, he yearned for acceptance from just one person, but no human could look beyond his appearance long enough to see the soft creature beneath.

The idea of judging people by their appearance is written deep into this novel. We see, time and time again, people harming and decrying the monster, simply because of his grotesque appearance. He is gentle, kind, and intelligent, but people do not see that. Instead all they see is a wretch, and in turning him away, the monster sees no reason to turn to those who do not accept him. All he wishes is to be accepted by one person -- just one, and maybe he'd be different, but even his creator turns him away. This creates the real monster, the one who wishes vengeance on the entire human race.

As said, I sympathized with the monster, who only wanted acceptance, just like everyone else, but was turned away by everyone. This book surprised me with the deep messages written into his pages, how it explored life, death, acceptance, deceitful appearances, and how very judgmental the human race is. The book certainly struck a chord with me, and by the end of the novel, I almost cried because of the way the creature had so much potential -- if only he had not been turned away by all humankind.

This book was a perfect way to start my year. It was not a simple horror story, which I appreciated. If it had just been a case of Frankenstein creating a monster that was evil from the start, I would have probably enjoyed the novel, but not as much as I enjoyed the exploration of the monster's deepest thoughts and yearnings for acceptance and joy. I certainly see why my English teacher assigned it; it has some deep messages that I know I enjoyed exploring. Highly recommended.
callistahogan: (Default)
Finally, another book post. Nine books here, and hopefully once I finish either Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey or The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, I can go back to my full-length reviews. I miss those things, but I am not about to try and do nine full-length ones in a day, so these'll be short.

32. Without Blood by Alessandro Barrico (Grade: B-)
I read this book at the end of my freshman year, so I don't quite remember the book entirely. What I do remember is that it was written very well and expressed the horrors and challenges war brings to people. It also shows the power of redemption and forgiveness, and how there can be peace found among opposing members in a war. Although it is not one of my favorite books, I enjoyed it. (112 pp.)

33. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Grade: A)
I had been wanting to read this book for quite a while, ever since I was in seventh grade. I tried reading it back then, but found it was too complicated and dark for my romance-addled brain to handle, unfortunately. I had tried reading it since then, but again, it was just too complicated. It had to have taken me two or three or four times reading the first chapter for me to really get into it, but once I did, I enjoyed it. Catherine and Heathcliff are very unsavory characters and, as Bella Swan said in Eclipse, their only redeeming factor is their love for each other, and even that takes a dark turn. I'm not one of those girls who is obsessed with Heathcliff (give me Mr. Rochester any day of the week), but he was an intriguing character. It makes me wonder how exactly he turned out the way he did and how he actually perceives himself, because we only see things from the point of view of two outsiders, which is admittedly biased, though it makes for a wonderful classic. This is not my favorite classic, but I will probably reread it one day. (400 pp.)

34. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Grade: A+)
I loved this book. I loved it because it had fantasy elements, but it was not just a fantasy novel. I loved it because it had romance, but not the sickly sweet romance that never has problems, but a romance where they had to work at what they had and work through their issues. It was realistic, showing the life of a miller and how Charlotte had to work very hard in order to keep the mill running. The book was complex, sifting through many different issues in a realistic way. I absolutely adored it. (400 pp.)

35. Love's Pursuit by Siri Mitchell (Grade: B)
I had high hopes coming into this book, because it intrigued me, the way it expressed both sides of Christianity: the more religious- and church-based part, a la Catholicism, and the grace-centric side. It provided a balanced view of Christianity, and expressed some of my core beliefs in a quick, eloquent way. The relationship between Susannah Phillips and Daniel Halcombe was written well and realistically, even though (and this is the last I'm going to say, because I don't want to spoil anything) it made me cry. The only reason this book did not get a higher grade is because the ending thoroughly depressed and slightly disappointed me. (336 pp.)

36. The Naming by Alison Croggon (Grade: A-)
There was a month and a half gap between finishing Love's Pursuit and finishing this one. Thankfully, this book got me back into reading on a regular basis. I bought it at the end of July/the beginning of August, started reading it while my cousins were here, and finished it a few days after. It struck me as a bit like the traditional fantasy novels: you know, the whole "orphan girl is in a terrible situation, someone gets her out, she goes to the epicenter of magic, learns that she's the Chosen One, goes on a quest to save the world from Teh Ebul Darkness" plot, but Alison Croggon puts her own spin on it. Yes, it is rather cliched in some spots, but in others, it was very original. Maerad is a strong-willed, passionate woman who really starts to grow into her own, and Cadvan is just intriguing. It is obvious that something is going to happen between them in the next book, and I can't wait to see what that something is. The action was just picking up when the book halted, and after reading the little snippet of a chapter of the next book in my copy, I can't wait to read the next one. (466 pp.)

37. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (Grade: A)
Reread. I can't believe this is my first reread of this book. Although this is not my favorite in the series (that would have to go to PoA or OotP), it was still very good. It is interesting to read through this book, knowing what's going to happen in the end. It puts a new twist on Snape, and makes him not seem altogether bad. I found myself noticing things I hadn't noticed in the first read-through -- which is why I love these books. You always find something new in the pages. Parts of the book I didn't like, though. I did find the whole Harry's monster thing rather contrived and unrealistic, but the Harry/Ginny relationship on a whole pleased me. Ron and Hermione are rather immature, yes, but it is understandable, as they are only sixteen or seventeen. The ending of the book made me sad, as usual, and I got rather choked-up, even though I knew it was going to happen. (652 pp.)

38. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Grade: A)
I finished this book in a day. At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but I ended up enjoying it. The religious overtones did bother me slightly, but it didn't prohibit me from liking the book. As you can see, I couldn't put it down. Lily was a very likeable main character. And although I hate bees, this book almost made me like them. :D (336 pp.)

39. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (Grade: C+)
This is the first time I have ever said this, but I have to admit that... I liked the movie better than the book. The movie was sweet, sensitive, and touching, and while the book was these things as well, it just didn't move me as much as the movie did. This was partly because of the writing and partly because the book was so darn short and disjointed. The ending did move me a little, but there were no huge, moving paragraphs, no big touching moments, and that disappointed me. Maybe the book version of The Notebook will be better. (224 pp.)

40. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult (Grade: A)
Now here was a moving book. I found myself at eleven last night, bawling my eyes out at the ending of this complex, multi-faceted novel. It was everything people ever said it was and more. I couldn't help loving both Anna and Kate, and this made me very conflicted. This book brings up many different questions -- about life, ethics, medical emancipation, donors, morals, and just what is right. Even I am not sure what I would do in Anna's position or Kate's or Sara's or Campbell's. All I am sure of is that I loved this book, and will probably pick up another Picoult novel soon. (500 pp.)

Progress (pages): 16,088/15,000 (+100%)

Well, look here. I finished my progress in pages already. How about I kick it up a notch and have my goal be 22,000 pages by the end of the year? That seems doable, if I have 10 more books left before I reach 50.
callistahogan: (Books)
I am such a terrible procrastinator. I would do long reviews but, since that would take more time than I have, I'll just do a paragraph or two expressing my thoughts. The next book will see me back into the swing of things, so to speak.

22. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Grade: A-)
Once again, Gabaldon delivered. Although it wasn't quite as good as the previous three, I finished it the quickest (I read it for that readathon way back when), and it was still very good. Jamie and Brianna... well, let me just say that they are acting true to themselves. Some parts of the book were cliched, but all in all, it was a gripping book. I've taken a break on the series for now, but I will probably start reading The Fiery Cross sometime this summer. If I get around to it, that is. (880 pp.)

23. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Grade: B+)
I remember being very disturbed, yet very thoughtful, while reading this book. It makes you think: What's worse, killing a child before it gets a chance to live, or allowing it to live (perhaps in very terrible situations) for thirteen years and then "harvesting" the human being for organs, regardless of its wishes? Thinking about the book again, I go back and forth. Right at this moment, I would say abortion is worse.

However, the thoughts that run through my mind while I read this book is probably why I liked it. The characters were also well-portrayed; one in particular went through a rather grueling journey, maybe more so than the others did. And, though the book wasn't quite as good as I expected it to be, I wholeheartedly enjoyed it and would strongly recommend reading it. (333 pp.)

24. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling (Grade: A)
Cute, quirky.  Read like real fairytales and I bet  you could read these stories to your children and they'd adore them. I loved the way that there were strong female characters in the tales. My favorite was probably the one with the warlock and the hairy heart. (107 pp.)

25. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K.  Rowling (Grade: A)
Reread. Wonderful, as always. I always love all the little clues and foreshadowing in the earlier parts of this book, and I always think that it fits together so well. One of my favorite books in the series. (435 pp.)

26. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A+)
Reread. I almost can't believe how anyone can hate this book. Sure, it's not the best writing in the world, nor the most traditional vampire story, but it is completely gripping and enthralling. I didn't want to put it down, and after reading it, my Twilight obsession came back with a vengeance. Edward and Bella have the sort of passionate love every teenage girl dreams of. (498 pp.)

27. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A)
Reread. I read this one in a day. As expected, the first part thoroughly depressed me, and I'm not ashamed to say I cried. Jacob, however, grew on me, and I didn't hate him as much as I did on my first read-through. The part in Volterra made me sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I loved it, though not quite as much as Twilight. It was still so marvelous, though. (563 pp.)

28. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A+)
Reread. After Twilight, this is probably my favorite book in the series. I spared pages whenever I could, even if it meant reading through an incredibly boring movie on Gandhi during World Studies. ;) Jacob got on my nerves in this book, but I understood him more. Bella, though... WHAT was she thinking? (People who've read this one  know what I'm talking about.) That was the one part in the book that I really did not like. Other than that, I loved it, especially Chapter 20. Edward and Bella are just as wonderful, although Edward could be a smidge less protective of Bella. I understand his thought processes, though, so it makes sense why he acts the way he does in certain scenes. (629 pp.)

29. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A-)
Reread. This is probably my least favorite book in the series, even though I still adored it. It just didn't have as much action as the others did, and Bella still seems a slight Mary Sue. I'm in the minority here, but I still l say it's worth reading. (754 pp., previous review here.)

30. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Grade: B)
This was, hands down, the most disturbing book I have ever read. Regardless, I really enjoyed it. The writing style was rich and lyrical, flowing smoothly and effortlessly. I didn't relate to any of the characters, but I sympathized with some of them (maybe against my better judgment). There are just so many layers to this book, it would take thousands and thousands of words to express them all. Suffice it to say I liked it, although I'm not so sure I could say I love it. (291 pp.)

31. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Grade: B+)
I'm not sure what I expected coming into this, but what I got was very different. Not in a bad way, though; the story was just so much bigger than what I expected. It's not just about the main character finding out who killed his neighbor's dog. It's so much more than that. Although the writing was very simple, very easy to understand, it sucked me in. There are quite a few profound things in this book. Would recommend it very highly for a nice, relaxing afternoon (although it might make you think a bit!). (221 pp.)

Progress (pages): 12,662/15,000 pp. (84%)

Next Up:
Without Blood by Alessandro Barrico
callistahogan: (Books)
Wow, I'm on a roll! Now I just have to pick up a book to read quickly before I lose my momentum. Am thinking I'll read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban just to keep up the momentum until my books through interlibrary loan are in. And then I'll get Drums of Autumn!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier )

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan )
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Genre: Fiction
Length: 193 pp.
Progress (pages): 4,828/15,000 (32%)
GradeB

Amazon Summary: When good-time, fortysomething Molly Lane dies of an unspecified degenerative illness, her many friends and numerous lovers are led to think about their own mortality. Vernon Halliday, editor of the upmarket newspaper the Judge, persuades his old friend Clive Linley, a self-indulgent composer of some reputation, to enter into a euthanasia pact with him. Should either of them be stricken with such an illness, the other will bring about his death. From this point onward we are in little doubt as to Amsterdam's outcome—it's only a matter of who will kill whom. In the meantime, compromising photographs of Molly's most distinguished lover, foreign secretary Julian Garmony, have found their way into the hands of the press, and as rumors circulate he teeters on the edge of disgrace. However, this is McEwan, so it is no surprise to find that the rather unsavory Garmony comes out on top. Ian McEwan is master of the writer's craft, and while this is the sort of novel that wins prizes, his characters remain curiously soulless amidst the twists and turns of plot.

My Thoughts: In a way, I expected more from this book, after loving Atonement and Saturday, and hearing that it won the 1998 Booker Prize for fiction. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, because it was a fascinating, thought-provoking novel that brought up a lot of interesting questions, but it just didn't live up to my expectations.

The plot was fascinating; going into it, I didn't expect what was going to happen at the end, which is something I appreciate in a novel. Because of the length, there weren't parts that seemed to drag on too long. The ending was confusing, but after a while, I got it, and I was shocked. That's all I'm going to say, though, because that ending is something you have to read for yourself.

The writing was gorgeous as always, flowing and vivid. McEwan is rather long-winded at times, but it adds to the novel and the tale he was trying to tell. In a way, his writing is very stream-of-consciousness, where I knew exactly what the characters are thinking. I experienced their blind anger, their frustration. I felt what the characters were feeling.

However, in this case, I wasn't sure if I wanted to know what the characters felt, because all of them were very unsavory. Clive, Vernon, Julian and George had dark sides to their personalities that came through. At the beginning, I liked Clive more than Vernon, but by the end, I disliked both of them. Admittedly, this side of their personality just showed the fact that they were human, but frankly, I just wish I had seen some of their "good" side.

In the end, I enjoyed this book, even though it wasn't as good as his other two novels. I think I'm going to pick up On Chesil Beach next; I was going to pick that one when I went to the library yesterday, but I was too tempted to pick up Amsterdam instead.

Currently Reading:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath by Rick Wartzman

A lot of books to be reading at the same time, I know, but I can't control myself, I really can't.
callistahogan: (Books)
I'm on a roll!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling )

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck )

Atonement by Ian McEwan )

Currently Reading:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Laarson
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Genre: Fiction
Length: 331 pp.
Progress (pages): 3,161/15,000 (21%)
Grade: A

Amazon Summary: Life is good for Jacob Jankowski. He's about to graduate from veterinary school and about to bed the girl of his dreams. Then his parents are killed in a car crash, leaving him in the middle of the Great Depression with no home, no family, and no career. Almost by accident, Jacob joins the circus. There he falls in love with the beautiful performer Marlena, who is married to the circus' psychotic animal trainer. He also meets the other love of his life, Rosie the elephant. This lushly romantic novel travels back in forth in time between Jacob's present day in a nursing home and his adventures in the surprisingly harsh world of 1930s circuses. The ending of both stories is a little too cheerful to be believed, but just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief. The book is partially based on real circus stories and illustrated with historical circus photographs.

My Thoughts: I have been in a reading slump for the past twenty days (I've only finished one book in that time, believe it or not), but not because I was reading a terrible book. In fact, I was reading two books, but it just seems like I haven't  been in the mood for reading lately.

Now, I think I am.

Having heard so many glowing things about this book, I had high hopes. I don't remember hearing anything even remotely bad about this book, so I came into it expecting to love it... and wasn't disappointed at all. I definitely did love it, and finished the lastt two hundred pages or so in two sittings.

This book was a powerful representation of circus life; it is obvious that Sara Gruen did her research on Depression-era America and circus life during that time, and it just makes the book all the more authentic to read the note in the back about the real-life events that inspired some of the antics in the story. It seemed real from start to finish.

Of course, it was more than just a "circus book." If it was, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. I loved the romance in the book, the angsty bits, the... ahem, inappropriate bits, the funny bits, and the dark bits as well. I do have to admit my squick button was hit several times during the course of the story (I'm sure those who read the book can figure out which bits), but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.

My favorite aspect of the book was, by far, the growth of Marlena and Jacob's relationship throughout the book. August made me nervous, because I wasn't sure how they were ever going to be together, but I was glad they found a way. The progression of the relationship was believable as well, going neither too fast nor too slow. It struck a nice, even pace; it seemed right.

One of my favorite characters was Walter. At first, he strikes you as this mean, dirty guy, but throughout the story, he shows his depth, through his love for his dog, Queenie, and his devotion and loyalty to Jacob whenever he manages to get himself into a spat. He made me laugh, in some spots.

All in all, it was a great book. Sometimes, I felt the nursing home bits dragged on a little too much for my tastes, but that was only because I was eager to get back to Marlena and Jacob. The ending, as others have said, was absolutely perfect, and made me smile, particularly in regards to the actions of Marlena and Jacob toward the end. The ending just showed how suited Marlena and Jacob were to each other, and how suited Jacob was toward the circus.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it a favorite, but if you haven't read it already, do so.

Currently Reading:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

And I am also in the mood to relax with some good ol' comfort reading:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

I very much want to get through the whole series back-to-back; I haven't actually done that before. And I claim to be Harry-obsessed...

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