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review 2018-09-18 01:24
Topper - Thorne Smith 
Topper; Classic American Humor Fiction - Thorne Smith

It is, by this time, a cliche: boring business dude meets a manic pixie dreamgirl who shakes up his days, keeps him up all night, teaches him about love, and then passes into the great beyond. What makes this book still feel marvelously fresh is that the MPDG isn't all that wacky, she's married, and she's already dead at the start of the book. Other than drinking mind-bending Prohibition-era quantities of booze, the adventures themselves are amazingly simple. Topper and his ghost companions enjoy several good meals, but otherwise they spend the summer mostly sleeping rough, swimming in rivers and the Atlantic, canoeing, reading [book:Ulysses|338798] aloud, and just digging the beauty of nature. There is singing and dancing, even a little brawling, but it's so charmingly bucolic. After all, if Topper gets up to 25 MPH in his car it feels fast and dangerous, and it no doubt was since roads were iffy and there were still a lot of farmers with horses about.<br/><br/>I was worried about Topper's wife. Needlessly. Smith is a writer who can produce the banter of Coward, and also spend a lot of time telling us how Topper feels about his cat. I knew it was going to have a happy ending, but I didn't know the ending would be so perfect. The overall effect is charming, but never twee. Highly recommended.



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review 2018-06-08 20:26
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury

Re-read by Audiobook. I read this when I was in high school - I think around 1978 - and thought it was such a scary, fantastic story. If there would have been goth in the 70's, I would have been one. Everything scary, occult, horrific I read. Just a bundle of sunshine!

This reading I liked it (thank goodness) but not as much as I did when I was a teenager. The narration included a part about how Ray Bradbury came up with the idea for the story which was interesting. The narration was good but I didn't remember Will being so whiny.

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review 2016-07-24 20:06
Not at war anymore - but also not quite at peace
Krieg und Frieden - 'Leo Tolstoi', 'Hermann Röhl'

Never before has it taken me that long to finish a book as it did with War and Peace. I started this work an unbelievable 8 years ago! I didn't read it during all this time, there were long breaks and several attempts to finish it. The main reason why it took me so long was that I had this huge one-volume edition which just was too big for my hands and too heavy for my handbag. But the end of last year my library finally had it as an ebook and this really helped! Now I'm just glad to finally be done!

I had watched a miniseries of War and Peace before reading the book which made reading it a lot easier: I had the character's faces on my mind and this helped remembering who was who. There really are a lot of characters!

War and Peace is an enormous work and it deserves to be read. It's just that tiny bit too long. The peace parts can be read fairly quickly, but the war parts are often very very slow going. I'm not really interested in battle descriptions or at least only up to a certain point. When they are hundreds of pages long with every detail and often repetitive that's a bit too much. He reaches the peak when he even uses mathematical equations! What I didn't like about Tolstoy's style is that whenever he uses an image or an example he explains it. It seems like he doesn't believe his readers can understand what he's saying. He's also often quite preachy which isn't my cup of tea.

I was at war with this work for a long time, now I'm finally at peace with it but only barely. After all the effort I put into reading it I just hoped that I would love it in the end. It's a good book but it will never be one of my favourites.

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review 2016-04-09 06:13
Powers of Persuasion
Persuasion - Jane Austen,Gillian Beer

It took me a while but I finished my first Jane Austen novel read! Apparently this was her last novel she wrote. My advice to Jane Austen book newbies, don't start with this one. If you like the movies and were drawn in by the romance between Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, you will find that this isn't quite the focus on the novel. Instead it's about society and the way that people behave as influenced by society and others around them. Anne believed and trusted her dear friend Mrs. Russell when she advised against marrying Captain Wentworth. He was of 'low birth' and had not yet made his fortune. Out of fear, she broke off her relationship with him, and for eight years nursed a broken heart. In that time, she has seen what she rejected him for, and it has not made her happy. But when he returns, she realizes that her love for him never died.

I did enjoy the ending very much. It's a good payoff for sticking this book out. I found the writing descriptions a bit tedious and it didn't seem like Anne and Wentworth were hardly together much. Instead, we see Anne watch life pass her by, stuck with her pompous, ungrateful father who has pretty much spent their money so they can't afford to live in their house anymore. Her father and two sisters are obnoxious people, and I got this feeling of Anne living a life of quiet desperation, acceding her needs and wants to the people around her. She has had eight long years to repent her decision. When Wentworth comes back, he seems to have moved on from Anne and actually seems to dislike her (in a polite kind of way). Anne can't hold that against him, since she brought it on herself (by rejecting him) in her mind. But it hurts because he's still the man she loves.

When she meets Mr. Elliot (her cousin), she thinks he's a nice guy and he seems to have a good reputation, and is well-liked. But this is another lesson about appearances being deceiving.

Far be it for me to criticize a great author of her times, but I felt that this book was tedious in its narrative style. Especially Sir Walter (Anne's father)'s long monologues about how superior he is to everyone else, and with his sycophantic daughter Elizabeth eagerly agreeing, not to mention their (and her youngest sister Mary's) endless social climbing efforts, and Anne suffering it all in in silence. The story really gets interesting when Anne meets some of Wentworth's fellow captain friends, and her interactions with them. At the time, I wished that she was actually spending more time with Wentworth, but even as written, this was when I became emotionally connected to the story in a way that I was not before.

I think it's all about expectation. One who has seen the movies expects a straightforward romance, but this is more of a book about society and choices. The persuasion in the title refers to the fact that Anne was persuaded to make a decision that she later bitterly repented. It could also be about how people are persuaded too easily by appearance or what's on the surface or going along with the crowd.

I found Anne to be sympathetic and likeable. Eminently good-hearted, which makes her rejection of Wentworth really just a common and forgivable flaw that any young, inexperienced girl might make. The fact that the years have matured her and she has learned what is important in life makes her more sympathetic. While Wentworth is not friendly to her most of the book (often he ignores her and seems to spurn her), she doesn't hold it against him.

Wentworth's actions don't reveal much of what he's thinking. I think the major weight of his character is revealed through the high level of regard that Anne continues to hold him in, and the respect that his fellow mariners, friends and family have for him. As time progresses, he seems to warm to Anne, and you get the impression he isn't indifferent to her. His letter was wonderful and was definitely a payoff for hanging on and finishing this book. Wentworth is moved by Anne comments to his friend (that he overheard) and it gives him the courage to admit his feelings for her. It is understandable that he is slow to risk being hurt again, in that he was rejected once by her. In the end, the reader cannot be angry at Wentworth either.

This book has no true villains per se, but it shows that society different kinds of people, and there is a morale in that one must be careful what they assume about others, because the surface rarely exposes what's underneath if someone is skilled at playing the game. I think if the ending wasn't satisfying, I would have been much more disappointed in this book.

I couldn't give this more than 3.5 stars because of the plodding pace. Again, it's definitely a matter of expectations. I love the movie with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, so I think my expectations were a bit too high.

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review 2015-08-27 01:11
Mad Science
The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells

I started this in early August, but it took me a while to finish it. One of the reasons is it's a profoundly unsettling book. I'm a scientist by training, and I take the ethics of science pretty personally. Dr. Moreau crosses so many ethical/moral lines in his experimentation, it's not even funny. Some things just should not be done, even if it's to advance scientific knowledge. I am also a inveterate lover of animals, and I felt a horrible rage at the way Dr. Moreau was torturing animals. I feel it's fair to admit I am a meat eater, and I don't feel that eating meat is wrong. This book did make me feel extreme discomfort and think about what an animal goes through so I can eat a hamburger (something that I know intellectually but still ponder the ethics of regularly). However, there is a clear line that even both vegans and avowed carnivores can agree on: torturing animals for no reason, and inflicting pain on them because they are merely animals and don't feel pain the way humans does is terribly wrong. Also, to treat animals he had ostensibly humanized with no decency or respect was capping off the wrong that Moreau was doing. I admit I wasn't sad about Dr. Moreau's fate at all. I could feel Prendick's sense of pervasive horror acutely. Because of that, I had to put the book down at one point and didn't go back to it until yesterday/today. I listened to this on Kindle Text-to-Speech and it adds an element of horror to experiencing the book as an auditory experience.

HG Wells is a good writer. He immerses the reader fully into the story. He writes descriptively and seems to be aware of science in a way that lends credibility to the story (although my mind went to what we know about tissue matching, organ donation and graft rejections today). I felt all the emotions that Prendick felt, although not his sense of superiority that comes from being a white Englishman of the 19th century. I know I would feel the weirdness of humanlike animals put in a situation where they are forced to act human but are denied the same respect and decency that humans deserve. I believe in the quality of life for animals and as a veterinarian this is a huge issue for me. I felt so sorry and angry on behalf of the Beast Men that it was a huge discomfort factor for me as I read. That's probably a good thing. I don't think anyone should be okay with how those poor beings were treated.

There is a touch of racism but it's not as bad as some of the classic novels can be. I always notice it, because I'm a black woman, and for good reason, I am clearly sensitive to such things. It's good to read books from different periods and see how things were then and be grateful that things have changed for the better, or at times, realize things haven't changed all that much.

I wonder what Wells would say about some of the things we do in modern medicine/medical research without blinking an eye at. Thankfully, there are stringent limitations on animal research (although I admit that I think some research that takes place is beyond what I consider moral or ethical). If anything, this kind of story will make a reader feel uncomfortable and ask themselves about what is ethically okay, and challenge them to feel things from a different perspective that they might not always be sensitive to.

Prendick was mostly a sympathetic character. He was in a very extreme situation way beyond his control or comprehension, and his actions were probably what one could expect for someone put in such a horrific situation. I can see why he would remain scarred emotionally for the rest of his life. Who could blame him?

This is a book that can easily be classified as science fiction horror. The horror is psychological because of being confronted with the extremes of science and the unnatural results of it on nature. HG Wells is considered a foundational science fiction writer, and I believe he definitely writes something prophetic about biomedical research that still can serve as a warning to us in the 21st Century. There is a line and we must not cross it.

I can't give this more than 3.5 stars because of the ick factor. The writing is good but it made me feel icky inside. As emotional reader, I have to listen to those instincts.

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