• Reading

    The Father Brown Mysteries Review

    I read The Father Brown Omnibus after the Sherlock Holmes collection around a year ago, so again, this will be quite short as my notes are not very helpful.

    These mysteries show more of the principal players in and viewers of the mysteries than do Holmes’ stories. Chesterton portrayed the mysteries with a less scientific/logical point of view and with more humanity/sympathy/empathy. Because of this the stories include more moralizing and consideration of motives.

    Sherlock Holmes is scientific/logical; in his stories he almost always explains all of the mystery in its entirety, and the mysteries themselves are puzzles, enigmas. The Father Brown mysteries are more of true mystery with religion, romance, philosophy, touches of the supernatural, and they have lingering mystery in the end.

    Father Brown is annoying in his “helplessness” and “bewilderment” (i.e. it makes him seem falsely humble). I know that he is right regarding other people misinterpreting his simple words, but he has been enough around people to know the common interpretations (since some things are so common that they are assumed) and misinterpretations.

    I enjoyed these mysteries but less than the Sherlock Holmes. Father Brown is not as interesting and original (and brilliant and awesome) as Sherlock Holmes, and the quality of writing did not equal that of the Holmes novels.

  • Reading

    My Man Jeeves

    I was less than impressed when I tried a story from Carry on Jeeves for a long dead book club. I picked up My Man Jeeves a couple months ago, but I read it slowly and had not finished it before I had to return it to the library. I got it back and finished it . . . and wished I had ordered more. So I think I will like them more as I try more. I shamelessly dog-eared the library book, and lo and behold these dog-ears were still intact when I borrowed it again (it was a large print which might explain its, um, popularity). Here are some delicious descriptions of Jeeves which I enjoyed greatly:

    “Jeeves projected himself in from the dining room and materialized on the rug. Lady Malvern tried to freeze him with a look, but you can’t do that sort of thing to Jeeves. He is look-proof.” Page 47.

    “Jeeves shimmered in with the glass . . . ” Page 55.

    “Jeeves filtered in with the tea.” Page 59.

    “In this matter of shimmering into rooms the chappie is rummy to a degree . . . He moves from point to point with as little uproar as a jelly fish.” Page 64.

    “He trickled into my room . . . ” Page 66.

    “Jeeves was standing on the horizon, looking devilish brainy.” Page 73.

    “For the first time in our long connection I observed Jeeves almost smile. The corner of his mouth curved quite a quarter of an inch, and for a moment his eye ceased to look like a meditative fish’s.” Page 165.

    “I’d always thought of Jeeves as a natural phenomenon . . . ” Page 175.

    “Next morning Jeeves came round. It was all so home-like when he floated noiselessly into the room that I nearly broke down.” Page 179.

    “Then he streamed imperceptibly toward the door and flowed silently out.” Page 180.

    Other funnies:

    Bertie’s brilliant conversational skills : “Tea, tea, teawhat? what?” Oops, didn’t get the page.
    This made it as the first entry into my quote book. Brilliant, yes?!

    “…he had seen his aunt to whatever hamlet it was that she was the curse of . . . ” Page 188.

     Wodehouse, P.G. My Man Jeeves. Sanbornville, New Hampshire 2004 Large Print Book Company.

    Forgive my lazy quoting and citing.

    Much of the rest of the humor was the slap-in-the-face-“you must laugh” type which isn’t exactly my type of humor, but like I said, I think these books could grow on me.

  • Reading

    Nicholas Nickleby

    I laughed out loud several times.

    I read somewhere how someone thought Nicholas was boring, I didn’t think so, but at the end I got annoyed with him about the whole “honor” issue with himself and Madeline and then also Frank and Kate. The description of the maiden lady and bachelor brother is ridiculous. I get something of his problem, but he should have known the brothers Cheeryble better than that, and I am sorry, even if it is the 19th century I am sure he didn’t have to be quite so extreme . . . but that is Nicholas for you.

    I had watched one of the film versions (2002) a couple year ago, and for some reason expected Smike to feature a bit more, I guess when you see him more it feels that way. He was always there in the book but not mentioned as doing anything. Why did it seem as if he lost his lameness?

    I like that the book followed all the several interesting plot lines and mini plots. I could feel a bit more in this book how Dickens dragged out the story for the serial, but I think all this back and forth helped keep my attention. I either read or heard something about Dickens and personal stuff in Nicholas Nickleby, and so I noticed a lot of the references to writers’ trials, like the one part when Nicholas gets into an argument with a stranger . . . which seemed totally out of character. He got angry about his family but didn’t pick petty fights.

    You know how I mentioned in my Great Expectations review how I didn’t like the stupid good characters? Yeah, I didn’t like Mrs. Nickleby at. all. She needed a good smack. I found it a bit ridiculous how Nicholas defended her, I mean I know he should and would, but it was soooo ironic. She was the stupider version of Mrs. Dashwood whom I also do not like.

    I was surprised at the depth of Ralph’s hostility and evilness. I guess the movie didn’t give a strong enough impression, or I just didn’t pay attention to that aspect. He want Nicholas dead, he said he would kill him if he could and let him be eaten by dogs, and he said this not as a figure of speech, but in all truth. I knew he wasn’t nice, but I guess I expected him to soften although I realized the ending and it seemed familiar. I think I am just used to crotchety old men who soften up rather than truly hardened characters. But his nephew!

    I cannot wait to pick up the film/television adaptations of this book and Great Expectations from the library.

  • Reading

    Great Expectations

    So, um. I read to about the middle of this novel years ago (as in possibly like six; I am ancient, I could read at this level six years ago?!). I put it down because it was my sister’s copy, and I was mad at her (that was the reason, I kid you not). I might add that this occurred during the period when I skipped through books before reading them and often consequently instead of reading them; I am a bit (notice the emphasis) better about that now.

    I took this novel up again last summer, and I think got half-wayish again. I picked it up in the last month or so and got myself hooked. I really enjoyed it. I may or may not have been imagining Pip and Herbert as they appeared in the newest film/television rendition (I cannot WAIT to see it although I will make myself watch some older versions first, or not).

    Oh, Pip. Oh, Herbert.

    The patheticness of convict and his story 🙁 (yes, I am using emoticons to describe Dickens, get over it).
    Pip’s softening towards him. Excellent.

    Wemmick, and the Aged. And Walworth sentiments. That needs to be a code phrase, “will you give me your Walworth sentiments at a later period?”

    Herbert’s perfect, total, self-sacrificing friendship. What he did for his fool of a foppish friend (let us be real about Mr. Spend-money-and-do-nothing)!

    I am not the biggest Joe fan (he is the stupidest character, and I cannot abide stupidity when cloaked in goodness). Stupidity ranking starting with the lowest I.Q.: Joe, Orlick, Drummle and the convict.

    The Drummle fireside showdown. Hysterical. The Pumblechook saga. Real. I love how even though Dickens is Victorian; his characters don’t have to be “above all that”; they can be petty and nice all the same.

    I hate Estella. I hate that Pip does not give her up. I prefer the original ending, naturally.

  • Reading

    Les Mis

    Delayed post from months ago. I read Les Mis back in December. I don’t have a great desire to see the movie.

    A Pinterest pin had this note: “Les Mis UnabridgedPut on you big girl pants and read it.” 

    I did thanks, and all the extra “history” sections are mostly NOT facts but rather absurdly romantic interpretations. That. Is. Not. History. 
    Also, I really don’t need to know Mr. Hugo that the sewage should have been used as fertilizer and that it would take care of disease. 
    Many abridgments are sacrilege; Les Mis abridged is salvation. 
    If Victor Hugo had spent all the emotion and sweat he put in his philosophizing and lecturing, the story would have been amazing literature.
     As it is, it needs a misinterpreted musical to make it great. 
    There was no gem in all that muck; there was a promising phantom perfume of a story.

    Also, I HATE hearing sympathy for Eponine. Read the book and you will see the REAL Eponine and why I have no sympathy.

  • Reading

    The Sign of Four Review

    This was my least favorite of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries; I actually didn’t really like it. The story was dark and creepy, I hated the savage character for many reasons, and the ending was unsatisfactory. The only slight gleam of light was Watson’s darling little romance and Holmes’ slightly mischievous attitude about it…he just doesn’t miss a thing even when he doesn’t say much about it. That is a big difference between the original stories and Sherlock. Sherlock loves to point out everything he notices (such as the fact that he knew Donovan and Anderson were having an office affair) to show off or hit back, and yes, lots of these people…Donovan, I hate her…are cruel to him, but the real Holmes was above all that; he was MUCH more noble period than his flatter, less developed modern reincarnation. I digress.

    Much of what was in the story was more gross and chilling than I could handle (and I just read something truly horrifying in the newssomething that to me was the most horrific thing I have ever readso I was extra sensitive at the time of reading). The tide of the mystery still carried me on, but I felt that the suspense was not fulfilled or justified by the ending.

    I did not feel any empathy whatsoever for this criminal and his back story did not seem overly intricate. He was a cold-blooded murderer, so his disgust at his savage and the unnecessary death didn’t ring quite true. The only thing of pulling interest in the main part of the plot was the fact that the jewels were at the bottom of the Thames. How infuriating but above the commonplace.

    After I read The Valley of  Fear, I noticed that someone pointed out that most of the story was not focused on Holmes. In that particular story I was fine with that because the mystery of that back story was ah-mazing! I have to wonder though, if I would have liked The Sign of Four better if Holmes was shown to the best advantage.

  • Reading

    A Study in Scarlet Review

    I read the Sherlock Holmes stories a while ago, so I cannot really elaborate more than this. I need to remember to take notes as I read and then thoughtfully write out a review right after I finish the books before I forget both my impressions and the details of the story. Mysteries are hard to review anyway, I think.

    I will admit to being a cheater and watching all the currently available episodes of BBC’s Sherlock long before I picked up the marvelous original stories. However, since I am now an ardent fan of the books (how can I not be?!), I think I am redeemed.
     There are significant differences besides the time period—and some of the stories are so much quicker to read than I expected from the television series. I love how the T.V. series takes parts from the books and mixes them up—it is brilliant.
    I love having the plot unfold and every detail explained; in the T.V. series it is hard to follow everything while in the stories the explanations of Holmes’ reasoning process is much more realistic.
    A Study in Scarlet
    The two part sequence surprised me, but I liked it, it lent so much more interest to the plot. I love backstories and long, complicated motivations (these seem to be lacking in the T.V. series). After reading the backstory, I wasn’t sorry for the victims—well I wasn’t sorry for the first, but the 2nd death was too horrific. I was sorry for the vigilante (I don’t wish to say murderer—I know he oughtn’t have turned vigilante—but  I completely sympathized with him and believe that he wasn’t as evil as a cold blooded murderer [to put that more Biblically, I believe he had considerably more common grace than a cold-blooded murderer]).
    Oh, the scene when he finds out they are gone! The horror is well built up in the story. I love the understated emotion. It is always soo much more effective than blatant description and tons of blood and gore—it is chilling and realistic and mysterious. All the hints and whispers lend a greater edge than statements of description. I love that (maybe because I am not that way?).

  • Reading

    A Christmas Carol Review

    Forgive me for taking so long to post. I have a huge load of Classic Club reviews I haven’t finished or barely started, and so I have been procrastinating. The reviews will probably be out of order.

    I read this in a few hours at work so that level of easiness made me happy.

    It is a familiar story. I grew up with the Disney animated version and our local theatre versions. It is a lovely tradition of a story, with just the right level of scary and sad balanced out by great happiness in the end.

    The tone of the story is not too dark despite some of the subject matter. The subject is serious, but the tone is humane with touches of humor. There is not a bit of preachiness, but lessons are given just the same.

    This story is classic for a reason. Seeing past, present, and future is a continually intriguing theme. The lesson is easily seen.

    I loved the pattern of opportunity to change. We see nasty, and then hopeless and then hope and then change. Can anything be more cheering than second chances?

  • Reading

    Middlemarch Review Part III

    And now for the best. Read part one here and two here.
    Caleb Garth was the best character as person. Caleb-with-a-‘c’(which form I have always preferred and considered as the true form and which must be distinguished from Kaleb-with-a-‘k’ as they don’t have the same connotation, at all, Kaleb-with-a-‘k’ is just a name) is homespun, solid, heart of gold goodness.
    I loved his character especially as such characters seem rarer than one might think—good, humble, honest characters are often portrayed as somewhat simple—not Caleb! He was sweet, strictly honorable, diligent, and intelligent. He did have two flaws in my opinion—his choice of wife and his having a favorite child.
    And now we come to my favorite character, Fred. I think I love all literary Fred’s (for example par excellence, Fred Weasley). That name and mischievousness and merriness seem inseparable (but Frederick is more magnificent…Captain Wentworth anyone?). Fred Vincy, what a silly gentleman’s name, but Frederick shows that the character has the capacity to deepen. 
     Fred was irresistibly lovable in a Laurie-esque way: he was rich and spoiled with plenty of potential in him. The descriptions of him and his thought processes and his “travails” and his love were hysterical.

    I was irritated with his laziness and loved that Mary and Caleb both thought that he needed to work and not rely on being a gentleman of means (even if he could). I was thrilled that he was allowed to improve.  I love when characters turn around like that. He wasn’t a worthless rich snob. What a good lad. I don’t like the slights Mrs. Garth gave him in Farebrother’s favor.

    Whew, that is all I have the will to express about Middlemarch.

  • Reading

    Middlemarch Review Part II

    Now for the more ambiguous characters. Read part one here and three here.
     The Vincys, Sir James and Celia, yawn.

    Mr. and Mrs. Cadwallader—funny.

    I despised and disliked Dorothea herself in the beginning; she was stupid and obnoxious and inconsistent, aiming for “high” goals with steps that quite clearly took her to depths as she had neither foresight or insight. She was described as being deep and noble and etc., but her actions showed otherwise until after Causabon’s death. Actions speak louder than words even in fiction.

    She should’ve seen that even a  great theological work (which Causabon’s work was NOT) is not widely beneficial—God does not list massive theological works under Christian responsibilities (although they are and do good to educated people), but He does require kindness, charity, and good works—and her cottages were much more Biblical and helpful especially in light of the fact that Causabon’s work turned out to be mythological and ludicrous.

    She rather deserved a downfall, but I think she perhaps got more that she deserved…maybe not, she should’ve know marriage was for life and could be bondage.

    Even though she was innocent, I still think she should’ve known better than to be so free and friendly with Will, especially since she knew that it displeased her husband.

    I am glad Causabon died before she could promise—but she still showed her weakness. She seemed very mature after that ordeal though, I like the concept of progression. I wish Will had shown it too though. I did like her and Will’s relationship after the death of Causabon.

    Will, oh Will. “What a pepper-pots you are!” (guess that quote!) Will, who doesn’t love a Will? And Ladislaw, are all Polish names interesting? He is interesting and merry and ardent and changeable.

    He was irritating in his worship of Dorothea and the way he viewed all other women—except when this was applied to Rosamund—that wretch. He spent too much time with Rosamund, and he should’ve known better and seen how shallow she was.  Even if he cared so little what other people thought of it and for Rosamund herself, he still should’ve cared what Dorothea thought…and his duty to Lydgate.

    He was also committing adultery with Dorothea on his own part. But as I said, I loved that he and Dorothea married after that…is that wrong? His honor and pride were impeccable with regards to everything besides marriage in which he deceived himself.

    Farebrother. I liked him at first probably somewhat to make up for Lydgate’s snubs. When Mary came up, I was much less pleased with him. The age difference was disgusting. I also took offense at the comparison between himself and Fred as if he had some greater right because he was older…to a young woman near Fred’s age. If he and Fred were the same age and Mary was neutral, yes, but the older shouldn’t steal from the younger nor should the unfavoured from the first favoured.

    It was interesting that he was so truthful with Fred, but it was disgusting to hear of such selfish, deceitful considerations from so old a person and a clergyman. He shouldn’t have pushed his case as angered at Fred’s presumption against his worthy age—he would’ve lost his respect had he put in his hand. He took the only honourable course even had Mary been neutral.

    Mrs. Garth. The fact of her being above Caleb in status shouldn’t have affected Caleb’s deserving an excellent woman. She may have been described as a good woman, but I don’t want the author to tell me if a character is good or bad or nice or mean—I want to see those things. I did not see anything overly admirable and certainly nothing pleasant about Mrs. Garth.

    Mary was a nice character of course, but she was rather underdeveloped as a character especially since she was pursued by two male characters at least one of whom was more developed than herself. There was very little interaction between her admirers and herself.

    The quote is from Little Women in chapter 21. Jo says it to Laurie, of course!

  • Reading

    Middlemarch Review Part I

    The book was long and had many characters, and I am verbose and rambling, so the review (spoiler review by the way) will be in 3 parts…live with it! 🙂

    I cannot remember exactly when I started this, I think sometime in January. I read it in phases. I was dragging my mind, not very motivated. Eventually, I think became very interested after forcing myself along and my reading sped up. By the time I was finished I could honestly say that I enjoyed it immensely. The plot was wonderfully interesting with all the many plotlines and their interesting intersections…or lack thereof. Much of the story was brimming with British humor. Candid descriptions of human unconscious and conscious maneuvers and motivations abounded.

    Unpleasant aspects first.

    The major issue with this novel was the light view of the sanctity of marriage. Apparently to love a married person from afar was not dishonorable (even though every other old standard of strict honor was held).
    I don’t like when people inquire into authorial intent (we can only know authorial intent if we read personal journals and letters and sometimes I don’t want to know it, it rather spoils forming my own opinions), but I do think we need to allow for authorial bias. I know that Eliot did not have a great set of morals herself as she formed an immoral alliance outside of marriage, and I cannot help but think that this influenced her apparent idea that extramarital romantic love as long as it was “pure” (by its very nature it cannot be in such circumstances) was acceptable.

    Will quickly fell in love with his cousin’s wife, and this love is treated as good because she was angelic and “had no corresponding feeling” and because he had “no designs”. Rosamund’s love for Will is portrayed in a more neutral light (but it obviously is still wrong) and even Dorothea doesn’t see this with all her described virtues; she should’ve been horrified as well as jealous and pained when she thought Will loved Rosamund. I feel that since Rosamund is so despicable that perhaps this portrayal is less dangerous at least for the Biblically educated reader.

    While we are on the subject of that diva…frail creature my eye. If she was capable of being so willfully a shameful, selfish, adulterous, manipulative witch, she was capable of applying her mind to being good; she obviously had some brains. She also seems terribly lazy, but I am not sure what her household duties were…all she seemed to do was busywork, complaining, primping, riding without her husband’s permission, complaining, and fawning on her husband’s rich relations. To sit and spend all Lydgate’s earned money and then dishonor and disrespect him and withdraw her love when he was in trouble because of HER! Poor Rosamund indeed. !!!!!!

    Oh, and it was TOTALLY out of character for her explain her own and Will’s situations to Dorothea as she did. Not that it would redeem her in my eyes if it seemed realistic…

    Lydgate. This section of the story bothered me the most. I always like the well-bred-to-the-point-of-arrogance characters to some extent because of their breeding, so I approved of Lydgate although I did not like his harsh judgment and treatment of Mr. Farebrother.

    Even though I knew Rosamund would turn out horrid, I kept believing/hoping that Lydgate would be successful in the medical field and never thought he would succumb as he did to her selfish, manipulative will. I found it hard to believe that he still loved her after her disobedience and deception, and I kept hoping that he would pull himself together and be a man.

    He was rather stuck on himself, but I don’t think he deserved to live his life under Rosamund’s sorry will and accomplish nothing and die young. That ending was too cruel…especially as it was written in a light tone and as if it was supposed to be humorous—insult to fatal injury! Lydgate was of a higher order—or should have been. I supposed though that this was something of a “pride before the fall” set up.

    I felt sorry for Mr. Bulstrode. I did not like that his repentance had to be false. I also hated the hypocrisy and cruelty of the gossipers. I hated that Bulstrode killed the man—why did she have to add that horrific, criminal twist? I supposed too many reforms (Fred) would’ve  been too great—but murder? REALLY?

    I even at some points (not near his end) felt sorry for Causabon because no one liked him, and he was so miserable and his work was worthless and foolish (a redeeming insight of Dorothea’s). However, he could’ve taken himself less seriously and have loosened up so as not to be himself ridiculous and rude. What he asked of Dorothea was selfish, wicked, and cruel (he knew her sense of honour would last beyond his death). I couldn’t pity him then—I rejoiced at his death quite as much as I was originally planning.

    Yes, all you get this time is the unpleasant parts. Read part two here and part three here.

  • Reading

    Black Arrow

    Here is a reviewette I wrote months ago.

    When our church had a bookclub one month Treasure Island was chosen, and I started the novel. I got bored, skipped through the rest, and didn’t wish to finish it. I thought I had better choose a different novel when I went back to attempt Robert Louis Stevenson. I started Black Arrow maybe a week or so ago, and I finished it a few days ago. I greatly enjoyed it. It was a short novel which added to its charms since it did not fall into the catagory of books I normally enjoy.

    I need to read more historical fiction again. The story was not deep by any means, but the love story was the main carrying theme since most of the book the protagonist is attempting to free his lady.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the ending. I would have like to have know exactly how the protagonist’s father died and all who were implicated and how they were implicated. This was a serious hanging subplot to me. Oh, and I know I am trivial here but, I HATE the name Dick-why couldn’t he have been called Richard throughout the whole book. There are too many dumb and evil Dicks in literature, and Dick when the book was written is what Jim, Joe, and Josh are now.

    The story was set in England during the War of the Roses. I am not well-enough versed in British history to appreciate the references although it wasn’t exactly necessary.

    The main lady was not exactly a well rounded character, but she was interesting enough when you first meet her. I was seriously annoyed with her stereotypical historical “femininess”; i.e. she faints all the time over stressful moments. Loss of blood or something would be fine, but I don’t exactly appreciate physically weak people.

    The book is violent, and Richard definitely partakes in the violence. He is not exactly your morally sensitive hero (at first) with regards to war and violence.