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Search tags: 1001-Books-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die
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review 2018-08-21 03:54
The Three Musketeers (d'Artagnan Romance Series #1) (Audiobook)
The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

This was fun! I've been slowly but surely trying to get around to all the old classics I avoided when I was a kid. I saw a couple of the Musketeer movies, neither of them very good, and I recently saw a few episodes of the Musketeer show on Hulu, but I never read the book, and after the enjoyable but somewhat rambling The Count of Monte Cristo, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book.

 

It's still enjoyable and still somewhat rambling, lol. The book lost some momentum after the race for the diamond studs and doesn't really recover, pace-wise, until the introduction of Milady, who gives whole new meaning to the word diabolical. This was often silly, and often fast-paced. I can see how this was originally published as a serial, and I can just imagine the people reading this in real time impatiently waiting for the next installment. The three Musketeers are great friends and have varied backgrounds and personalities, and they adopt d'Artagnan into their group despite some awkward and hostile beginnings. I adored their friendships and how they looked out for each other - which is why it felt so disjointed that d'Artagnan then had to wait to be told to go look for his friends who may or may not have given up their lives to he could go fetch the queen's diamond studs. Like, bro, WTF? 

 

Simon Vance knocked this out of the park and his impression especially of Porthos was a hoot and a half. I think my love for Porthos is about 110% due to Vance's reading of his lines. So over the top. So adorably obtuse. Planchet was pretty adorable too. Though as great as Vance was, these are the most British-sounding French dudes ever. :D I guess French narrators just refuse to read this in English? After a lifetime of hearing British accents for French characters, it didn't bother me at all, just added to the fun. 

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review 2018-07-26 02:05
A Tale of Two Cities - DNF @ 40%.
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

"You have been the last dream of my soul."

 

And this has been the end of my tether. I've run out of can for this book. Third time was not a charm.

 

When Dickens actually bothers to write characters living a story, the writing is tolerable. But then he goes into these long allegorical chapters that are pompous and overblown and I lose all track of what's going on or why I should care about any of this.

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review 2018-07-20 16:04
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy / John Le Carré
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - John le Carré

A modern classic in which John le Carré expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy begins George Smiley's chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.

It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

Well, you couldn’t get much further away from the playboy-spy image than this, could you? George Smiley, the chubby everyman who’s always polishing his glasses, is the antithesis of James Bond. Rather than Miss Moneypenny, there’s a whole department of women known as “the mothers.” And instead of posh casinos, George spends a lot of time in a run-down hotel, reading swathes of paper files.

This is spy work done through the archives, searching for patterns in the paperwork, and through careful interviews with those who have been betrayed and/or let go. We have hints that Smiley had his daring days when he was younger, but he’s now a middle-aged man using his intellect instead of his muscles, carefully piecing together the story. Sometimes he learns as much from what’s not said as from what is said. Plus, he’s reinvigorating his career—sacked because he sided with the wrong person (Control), he is getting his place in the biz back by figuring out which high-level Intelligence man is their Russian mole.

Double agents, backstabbing, and betrayal. What more can you ask for in a novel?

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text 2018-05-18 18:07
The Country Girls / Edna O'Brien
The Country Girls - Edna O'Brien

Meet Kate and Baba, two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Kate, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Kate and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way.

 

I have absolutely no idea how to rate this book. Can I say that I enjoyed it? Yes and no. Can I say that I appreciated it? Yes indeed.

It was an important book for its time—published in 1960 and showing an Ireland that doesn’t exist anymore. One where the Catholic Church and patriarchy reigned supreme and women had extremely limited choices. You could get married or become a nun. That was pretty much it, at least for the country girls. Women weren’t admitted to be sexual beings and weren’t supposed to criticize how their society worked.

Edna O’Brien writes beautifully about the naiveté of the two rural girls when they come to the big city. Kate is the artistic, romantic, intellectual girl who has idealistic visions of what life should be like. She wants to discuss literature with her dates and they only value her sexuality. She becomes involved with an older married man from her village because he offers a window into the more sophisticated world that Kate longs for. Baba, on the other hand, is far more earthy—she wants to smoke, drink, and enjoy the company of men. The two women couldn’t be more different from one another, but small communities make for strange friendships. With few people of the right age to choose from, you bond with the most compatible person available and these relationships rarely withstand leaving home.

The poverty, the alcohol problems, the repression of women--The Country Girls reveals them all. No wonder this book was denounced and banned. It was hanging out the dirty linen for the world to look at.

Ireland is a country that is definitely on my “to visit” list. I love reading books which are set there and I will definitely read more of O’Brien’s work.

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review 2018-05-07 19:42
The Poisonwood Bible / Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

 

 

“Oh, mercy. If it catches you in the wrong frame of mind, the King James Bible can make you want to drink poison in no uncertain terms.”

A well written book with an engaging exploration of hubris. The hubris of colonial powers who think they are superior to their colonies. The hubris of men who think they are superior to women. And the hubris of religious men who think their religion is superior to all others.

In many ways, Nathan Price's attempt to grow an American garden in the Congo is representative of all those endeavours. First, he uses methods which work in Georgia and refuses all advice from local people. When his work gets washed away by the rains, he relents and uses local techniques. Then, his crops appear to flourish and grow luxurious foliage, but no fruits or seeds manifest. Eventually he realizes there are no pollinators for his pumpkins and beans, which will never amount to anything edible.

After the failure of his garden, Nathan gives up any attempt to feed and care for his wife and daughters. Instead, they must fend for themselves and face physical violence if they don't care for his needs. He remains obsessed with converting the Congolese to Christianity, while ignoring his own unChristian behaviour. Simultaneously, his Congolese neighbours display great charity, placing eggs under the Prices' chickens and depositing food in the kitchen under the cover of night. Instead of ministering to the natives, they minister to the Price family.

Nathan also refuses to study the local language to be able to express himself clearly. As a result, he is constantly saying, "Jesus is poisonwood" when he thinks he is proclaiming the greatness of Christ. He inhabits his own reality, which bears no resemblance to that of any one around him. His lack of empathy for others undercuts his message constantly. When confronted by missionaries who practice compassionate Christianity, Nathan becomes even more truculent and resistant, rather than recognizing the value of care and kindness.

The Price women are every bit as colonized as the Congo, as they are unwillingly exported from Georgia. All their dreams and desires are over-ridden by their patriarch's obsessions and goals. I found myself cheering for them as they (and the Congo) chose independence, with varying degrees of success.

Colonial powers and the patriarchy may deny the reality of their colonies and of women, but that reality nonetheless exists. As Rachel Price says, "The way I see Africa, you don't have to like it but you sure have to admit it's out there."

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