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Search tags: 1001-Books-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die
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review 2019-02-05 04:05
The Color Purple
The Color Purple - Alice Walker

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

 

I still remember the first time I saw the movie The Color Purple. It was at home, when it was on TV, and I was probably around 7 or 8. I only understood about half of what was going on, but it spoke to me. Celie's love for her sister Nettie and her strife living with Mr and her friendships with Sofia and Shug, all being filtered through Celie's open and loving heart caught hold of my own heart.

 

It wouldn't be until my late teens I finally read the book and fully comprehended everything that went over my head years earlier, and to reread it now nearly two decades later I see the themes here in a way I couldn't back then. But at the heart of it, it's still that same story of self-discovery, of love triumphing over hate - if not injustice - and learning to be comfortable in your own skin, learning to listen to your heart and the hearts of those around you. It's learning that even when you lose all hope, there's still more hope left to discover, that bad things will happen but good things will happen too. 

 

 

The book also examines the racism in the deep South that existed after the end of slavery, during the Jim Crow years, but doesn't stop there. It examines, through Nettie and her missionary work, how it also tore apart the African tribes at the start of the slave trade and continues to damage it to the present day. It doesn't let anyone off the hook. It examines the struggles of people of color, and especially women of color in a time when no one cared about them. 

 

It could be a very depressing book with all the issues it tackles, not just racism and gender inequality but also rape, incest, injustice, domestic abuse and cheating - nearly everything I don't like reading about all in one book. But from the POV of Celie, as she prays to God and later writes to her long-lost sister, the story flows with a strange mixture of innocence and knowing that helps sooth over what would otherwise be very difficult passages to read.

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review 2019-02-01 03:37
Around the World in 80 Days (Extraordinary Voyages #11) (Audiobook)
Around the World in 80 Days - Jules Verne

This started off a little slow, with all the boasting and detailing of bets of whether Phileas Fogg actually can make a trip around the world in eighty days. But once he got going and he got framed for stealing money that put Det. Fix on his trail, it got more interesting. Fogg also picks up a French servant, Passepartout, who is quite endearing and faithful to his employer. Fogg starts spending money like a politician on the campaign trail in order to win his bet, and the various obstacles he meets along the way are met with a cool head. A little too cool. Fogg was a hard nut to crack, but I still found myself more engaged with this story than with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This one does have the same broad generalizations and stereotypical portrayals of any culture not English as 20K Leagues did, so fair warning there.

 

I actually didn't know much about this one before going in. Like with 20K Leagues, I knew of it and the general idea of what it was about, but not much else. The various methods Fogg takes to get around the world were interesting, if not downright absurd. There's this weird passage once they get to America where Passepartout listens to a Mormon elder lecturing about the church. Weird for me anyway, since I never expect to see Mormons portrayed in things yet I keep stumbling upon them in older works like this. I keep thinking that my Mormon upbringing gave me a skewed perception of how influential the church was at that time, but I guess not if first A.C. Doyle and now Jules Verne felt compelled to throw something in their books about the church for absolutely no reason whatsoever. 

 

I thought the character of Aouda was pretty pointless, and it makes me wonder if Verne just didn't have much exposure to women. Also, the narrator Frederick Douglas, could not do a woman's voice convincingly at all and settled for talking in a falsetto for her parts. Thankfully (or offensively? LOL) she didn't have much to say so I didn't have to put up with it much. Speaking of the narrator, he read pretty slowly, but once I sped him up to 1.20 times the reading went more smoothly. (What did people do when books were on tape and couldn't be sped up except to fast forward, making it sound like the Micromachine man on helium? Progress, y'all!)

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review 2018-12-02 14:16
Only For Slackers: "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" by Peter Boxall
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die - Peter Boxall


(Original Review, 2010-04-18)



I found this list rather heavy on very recent fiction. There is also no way of knowing whether books published a few years ago will withstand the test of time, and I suspect many won´t. This is a reason why, apart from a handful of favourites, I tend to restrict my (sadly limited) reading to more established authors. 4 times out of 5, when I believe the "hype", I end up disappointed.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-12-01 20:33
Jane Eyre (Audiobook)
Jane Eyre (Centaur Classics) [The 100 greatest novels of all time - #17] - Charlotte Brontë

What the hell did I just read?

 

This book is nearly 200-years old, but in case you're like me and know nothing about this book: SPOILERS! You've been warned. :D

 

This book started out with orphaned Jane living with relative-in-laws who barely put up with her, Jane getting into trouble and being sent to a boarding school and ... wait? This is Jane Eyre and not David Copperfield, right? *checks book* Right. And I can tell because it's much better written, has much more interesting and better developed characters and actually gets to a point eventually. 

 

It took me a while to get into this one, until I realized the audiobook playback was just too slow to keep my attention and I sped it up to 1.20x. Wanda McFadden does an excellent job narrating and she does Jane's voice especially well, a crucial detail. Plus, the fire was quite an attention-grabber too. And then it got a little meandering for a few more chapters and then Rochester has a room that he can lock people into and they can't get out! THAT'S NORMAL!

 

At that point, I started to really root for Jane to get the hell out of there, especially as things got even more messed up - and she does! She even stumbles upon a literally found family who treats her well and to whom she can contribute equally, and she gains financial independence to boot! She's scot free! Only she eventually goes back, marries Rochester and lives happily ever after. The End!

 

 

I wanted a gif of someone shaking a book upside down as if looking for more pages, but this one works just as well! Because this book ended and I kept waiting. There had to be another chapter, right? One that started with, "Reader, he locked me in the attic."

 

Though I guess a man locking up his cray-cray Creole wife is totally normal and acceptable behavior for the 1800s. And going after his ward's governess, who is less than half his age and whose name he can't even get right half the time, well that's a time-honored tradition. And who says bigamy can't be romantic? *cough*Outlander*cough* Oh, Janet. I mean Jane, what were you thinking?

 

I take it we have Ms. Brontë to blame for one of my least favorite tropes: the strong independent woman who falls for the thuggish brute. *sigh* And yet Jane is so astute and headstrong and knows her own mind and ambitions so well, I can't hold it against her. If I had only two options and one of them was Rochester and the other was Rivers, I'd choose Rochester too. 

 

WAIT! Hear me out! Because Rivers just wanted her as a project, someone to reform and shape into what he wanted her to be, completely disregarding what she wanted and desired, whereas Rochester wanted her for herself. And at least if she ever goes crazy, she'll have the comforting foreknowledge that Rochester will take care of her at home and not send her off to an asylum. Plus, he's infirm and half-blind, so if she really needed to fight him off, she probably could. Silver linings! I has them!

 

 

Shhh! Katniss, no. We're all sane here. :) (Also not what I was looking for when I searched for gifs of silver linings, but again, I'll take it.)

 

I guess feminism and female power only got you so far in the 1800s. In today's world, I like to think that Jane would've told Rivers to screw himself (well, she does here too), forgot all about Rochester, opened her own school and lived happily ever after.

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review 2018-11-01 14:12
The Mysteries of Udolpho / Ann Radcliffe
The Mysteries of Udolpho - Ann Radcliffe

The Mysteries of Udolpho is the story of orphan Emily St. Aubert, who finds herself separated from the man she loves and confined within the medieval castle of her aunt's new husband, Montoni. Inside the castle, she must cope with an unwanted suitor, Montoni's threats, and the wild imaginings and terrors that threaten to overwhelm her.

 

I read this book to fill the Gothic square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

This is the mother of all Gothic romance, originally published in 1794. Twenty-first century readers may find themselves challenged by the style. Here is Wanda’s recommended reading instructions for The Mysteries of Udolpho:

1. Practice your patience. Readers in the 18th century weren’t in a rush and didn’t expect lean prose or fast plot development. Don’t read to a deadline if you can help it—trying to rush through will probably frustrate you further.
2. Develop your taste for scenic descriptions. Because you’re going to be reading a lot of them. Apparently good people spend a lot of time gazing at the mountains and the moon and rhapsodizing about them and bad people can’t be bothered. Now you know which kind of person you are.
3. Speaking of which, decide whether you are going to read all of the poetry & songs or not. I started to skip them about 1/3 of the way through the book. It was minutes of my life that I wasn’t going to get back.
4. Prepare yourself to be horrified, not at the so-called horrors of the book, but at the limited role of women in 18th century society. Their lives are controlled and run by the men who claim authority over them. If their wishes are listened to at all, they are lucky.
5. Prepare yourself for the boredom of women’s lives, at least upper-class women, who seem to do a lot of sitting around. You can paint, you can read, you can admire the scenery (see #2 above), you can do needlework. Sometimes, you can go for scenic walks. If you’re really lucky, your controlling men (see #4) will take you to a party. But mostly you sit around in your dreary chamber and talk to yourself.
6. There will be crying and fainting. Lots and lots of it. Or swooning or being rendered speechless. In fact the main character, Emily, seems to subsist on meals consisting of a few grapes and half a glass of wine, after staying up most of the night listening for mysterious music or watching for spectres. It’s no wonder that she tips over so easily, as she’s under-nourished and under-slept all the time.

This is where so many of the Gothic romance tropes got their start—the orphaned young woman, struggling to make her own way in the world, adored by every man who stumbles across her path—she and her true love have a communication issue which leads to a horrible misunderstanding and much suffering on both sides, until the truth comes out. Radcliffe introduces the mystery element too—who is the woman in the miniature portrait left behind by Emily’s father? Why does Emily look so much like her?

Truly, I’m glad to have read this ancestress to the Gothic romances that I’ve enjoyed since junior high school. But wow I’m also glad that writing styles and expectations have moved along.

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