Greetings, my dear bloggerly companions!
Well, here I am. I have returned. The show was amazing (truly it was), but I’m glad it’s over because I did want my life back at some point.
Now I have to remember what blogging is.
It is high time for a bookish reviewish post, I think.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Is Jonathan Harker stupid? No. Of course not. He’s just not the best judge of character. Or the best at reading social cues. People trembling in fear and taking on horrified expressions every time one mentions the name of one’s employer might be a good indication to you or me that something sketchy is going on, but that doesn’t work for Jonathan. No, sir, it does not. But that’s okay, because we love him anyway. And so does Mina.
(I know that wasn’t much of a description, but as anyone may have surmised from the title, yes, this book is full of vampires.)
- the format (the fact that it’s all told in letters and diary entries from various characters’ perspectives is pleasing)
- Jonathan and Mina being wholesome
- Quincey, Arthur and Dr. Seward being hardcore buddies (this also is wholesome)
- Van Helsing being…Van Helsing (what a fine Dutchman he is)
- Renfield being insane (quite disturbing, actually, but also fascinating)
- the melodrama (this book just GOES for things, and I appreciate that. It is hilarious)
- the good vs. evil theme (yes…vampires are in fact…evil)
- …vampires (yeah…so apparently I’m not a fan of vampires, even in their proper context)
- Sometimes the stupidity/slowness of the characters was entertaining, but sometimes I was just like, guys…GUYS. SHE IS PALE YOU ARE DEALING WITH A VAMPIRE JUST PUT TWO AND TWO TOGETHER
- It dragged in some places
- Every adaption ever (TRY MAKING MINA FALL IN LOVE WITH DRACULA ONE MORE TIME-)
Verdict: Despite some underwhelming aspects, I greatly enjoyed this quintessential gothic novel and I think it’s probably the only vampire book I will ever like.
The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin
This is an autobiographical book for young readers (elementary/middle grade) about all the happy times that Yevgeny had as a boy in Cold War Russia. Yay Communism. (I guess I am feeling rather sarcastic today.)
- the simple but effective writing style (Yelchin knows how to tell a story, you know?)
- the tone (lighthearted but with a heavy undertone)
- the picture it paints of a genuine time and place in history
- Yevgeny (why would you not like Yevgeny?)
- I wanted more story (it was very short and just kind of ended)
Verdict: A small but poignant snapshot of an artist’s childhood. Worth reading, partly because it takes so little time to read (that makes sense, right?).
The Water and the Wild and The Doorway and the Deep by K.E. Ormsbee
These are the first two books in a middle grade fantasy trilogy (that evidently never got off the ground, because the third book is virtually nonexistent). The story is about an orphan girl named Lottie Fiske who travels to a magical world through a portal in an apple tree, and turns out to be *gasp* the Chosen One…or something. (Not the most original of premises, but okay.)
- the charm (there’s this comfy MG fantasy vibe that I’m kind of into)
- Fife (to be honest, I’m mostly just here for Fife)
- Oliver (Oliver is also a dear)
- keens (they are kind of cool, and make the magic system more interesting)
- the angst, generally (mainly as it pertains to Fife, of course)
- When comfy-MG-fantasy-vibe strays into generic-MG-fantasy-vibe (there is a fine line there, folks)
- Lottie being kind of “blah” the majority of the time (a vehicle for the plot, basically)
- the preteen/teen romantic drama (hm…no)
- plot and pacing things that are just kind of…eh?
- awkward exposition
- the ambiguous existence of the third book
Even though things like unique magic systems and my boy Fife do their best to spice things up, these books do come across as rather bland, and generic. There is still a vague charm (and there is Fife), so I enjoyed them marginally well, despite shortcomings.
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
The anarchists are Most Definitely about to blow up the world. Or at least, destroy the existing social order. Obviously this won’t do at all, so Scotland Yard sends a young policeman undercover into the Central Anarchist Council, where he assumes the name “Thursday”. Each member of the group is named after a day of the week, it so happens. Sunday is their leader, and he is…well…we don’t really know what he is. But he’s sure something.
- the writing style (G.K. Chesterton can WRITE, guys. Also this is the most “novel-like” of his novels that I’ve read)
- the wit and general humor (’tis funny)
- the many quotable moments (some of which are profound and some of which are just downright hilarious)
- Gabriel Syme (what an entertaining fellow he is)
- the plot (ridiculous in a satisfying way, for the most part)
- it was oddly relatable (…not sure if I should be putting this in “yea” or “nay”…)
- the ending (for some reason it became unsettling? I know it’s supposed to be a nightmare…but even so)
- Sunday (he was just…unsettling. Maybe this is why I did not love the ending)
- slightly more chaos than I wanted (I like the chaos…but not that much)
Verdict: Though Sunday dampens my enthusiasm slightly, I still found this book to be sharp, funny, and altogether quite entertaining.
Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery
This WWII children’s novel was published during the war, which I find very cool. Tony was kidnapped as a toddler by a childless German woman who must have figured it wasn’t that big of a deal since Tony’s mother had plenty of other children. I mean, it’s only fair, eh? Gotta distribute the children equally. Plus she really, really, really wanted him. That makes it okay, right? (I dearly hope that you know the answer to this question…) Anyway. Twelve-year-old Tony (who is called Max now) suddenly learns that he’s actually English and he is Not Happy about it.
- the large family aesthetic (it is very wholesome and it makes me very happy)
- SIBLINGS (and so many of them, too)
- the hardcore identity crisis (the angst, you know)
- Dym being the Ideal Older Brother (of course we love this man)
- the historical context
- the metaphors
- when the metaphors strayed too far into straight-up allegory territory (like, just because Dym is a Christ figure doesn’t mean he has to literally be perfect)
Verdict: Though it fell a little flat at a few moments, overall it was a solid story with lovable characters.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry
Rob has a perfectly normal life. Or perhaps he would have a perfectly normal life if his younger brother Charley didn’t frequently call him at three o’clock in the morning to ask him to help chase down a fictional character that Charley had accidentally read out of a book. (Is this just Inkheart for adults? Maybe??)
- Charley (my boy. I know you are a twenty-six-year-old college professor but I would still like to adopt you as my son)
- Rob (chill, son. Just chill)
- Millie (she may say “jolly” entirely too much but I jolly well love her anyway)
- BOOKS (gotta love a book about books, am I right?)
- summoning (I just love the way interpretations work. So much opportunity for humor, but also angst)
- Dickens influences (so much respect for Dickens)
- literary references (characters. Characters everywhere…)
- New Zealand (they live in Wellington. I love it)
- brothers (we know you love each other)
- the ANGST and PAIN and PERIL (is it over-the-top? Nonsense… Um…I do love my fictional men in pain, though, not gonna lie)
- the pure love and admiration for story-telling that oozes from the pages (more of that, please)
- literary criticism (can we just talk about stories all day long??)
- the way the plot just felt satisfying
- the parallels
- unfortunately, the writing itself was subpar (it wasn’t awful, but it could have been so much better. A good word to describe it is “sloppy”. A few more rounds of edits could have sharpened it up quite a bit)
- frequent inconsistencies and typos (this kind of goes along with the previous complaint, obviously. Do editors exist?)
- Lydia kind of just being there to be Rob’s girlfriend (I could tell it was trying to make her interesting? But it didn’t totally work? She was fine, though)
- summoning sometimes getting a bit too convoluted and confusing
Verdict: So, for me this book was just fun. It has so many things I am bound to enjoy: brothers, books, Dickens aesthetics, literary humor, all the angst- I just wish it had better prose, but hey, nothing is perfect.
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
So I had to read a Dickens after TUEOUH. Of course I did.
This is one of the ones I hadn’t the faintest idea about before reading it, which is rather unusual since I’ve seen a fair number of BBC adaptions. Who knew a good chunk of this book took place in America? Not me. Who knew that it was about young Martin Chuzzlewit setting out to seek his fortune after quarreling with his grandfather (old Martin Chuzzlewit, as it were), who is maybe dying and definitely attempting to avoid all of his relatives who are aggressively trying to get written into his will? …Not me.
- the writing (Oh, Dickens, there is none other)
- the sarcasm (like I said…Dickens)
- Tom Pinch (bless him)
- Ruth Pinch (siblings, guys)
- John Westlock (I will admit he grew on me)
- Mark Tapley (maybe likes the word “jolly” even more than Millie does)
- the Youngest Gentleman (I find his suffering unfailingly hilarious)
- Chuffey (a dear soul, with one of the best character introductions ever)
- a bunch of other entertaining characters (this is Dickens, after all)
- some satisfying character development for certain characters
- It was …long (as much as I love Dickens, he does tend to be a little bit long-winded)
- Certain characters maybe being too perfect (Tom, Ruth and Mary, particularly)
- the fate of the Youngest Gentleman (though, it could have been much worse)
- some of the commentary on America (I thought I was fully prepared for Dickens to make fun of us, but some of it wasn’t quite fair. I don’t have the brain to articulate exactly what I mean, so that’s all you’re getting)
Verdict: Definitely not one of my favorite Dickens, but worth the read for some lovable and/or entertaining characters, not to mention the sublimity that is Dickens’ prose.
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
Virgil, a mild-mannered, middle-aged man, is recovering from a serious accident (his brain may have been effected). His town is struggling not to die (it’s small and sad). A kite-flying stranger shows up, hungry for stories about his son. There’s a story here…right?
- the prose (Leif Enger really knows what he’s doing there)
- Bjorn (what a good kid)
- Rune (and his KITES)
- Galen (this one is a handful, okay)
- the Empress (it’s a movie theater…not like an actual female ruler of an empire)
- family and community vibes
- humorous and/or heartfelt anecdotes (you know this brings Gary D. Schmidt to mind)
- Virgil being such a dad
- pretty much all the romance? (some of it was just “meh” and some of it was NO THANK YOU. Also there was just…too much of it?)
- the…Ann situation (what even…was that…? But also, why? It makes me mad)
- Things kind-of sort-of feeling nihilistic at times (for some reason the overall feel of the book was depressing?)
- Not enough Bjorn
- It just wasn’t Peace Like River
Verdict: I found this book to be disappointing, because I love Peace Like a River and it didn’t measure up- not exactly fair, but there it is. Though it has some good moments, the story didn’t grip me. The fact that it has a vaguely depressing feel doesn’t help matters much. I did like it okay, just…not as much as I was hoping to.
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
You know when you try to marry off your son and then he gets crushed to death by a giant helmet on his wedding day? That’s basically what this book is like.
- the morbidity of the humor (it’s…supposed to be funny…right?)
- the castle (castles are cool, you know?)
- the characters just Not Having a Clue
- the first preface (William Goldman vibes, anyone?)
- the fact that this is known as the first gothic novel (the history of literature!)
- the lack of quotation marks and paragraph breaks (just very hard on my poor brain)
Verdict: Quite entertaining, particularly in light of its historical significance
Bungo Stray Dogs: Storm Bringer by Kafka Asagiri
Chuuya joined the Port Mafia one year ago. Just because he wanted to (…this is a lie). Now a man has shown up claiming to be his older brother. He is a happy, peace-loving man who would absolutely never dream of killing Chuuya’s friends or giving him trauma (this also is a lie). Chuuya may have to team up with an AI detective named Adam to handle the situation (this one is actually true).
(Is this a light novel that I bought in spite of my better judgment because I am overly invested in the life of a particular anime character? Well…it’s a distinct possibility.)
- Chuuya (…he is the reason I’m here in the first place…and what a precious, broken child he is)
- BACKSTORY (can I get an amen?)
- the bread. The bread story (I ADORE THIS PART SO MUCH I DON’T KNOW WHY BUT IT’S BEAUTIFUL)
- Dazai (this kid is downright disturbing, but for some reason we love him anyway??)
- Adam essentially being a blend of the Terminator from T2 and Baymax from Big Hero 6 (I did rename this book Bungo Hero 6: Judgment Day, in case you were wondering)
- Detective Murase (I did not think I was going to care…but then I did care. Bless this man)
- I’M INDIFFERENT (Sure. Sure you are)
- I want to see Chuuya suffer as a human (um…I do, though)
- there was a lot of suffering. And angst. And trauma (*claps hands gleefully*)
- Corruption (witness suffering, angst and trauma growing at an exponential rate!!)
- that one scene in the epilogue (I’m not saying I cried, but there were FEELINGS, okay?)
- the Afterward (best quality writing right there)
- the illustrations (when they appeared)
- the writing. Just…everything about the writing (to be honest, it comes across as a first draft…written by a sixteen-year-old. It’s pretty brutal. If I was not already invested in the characters from the anime, I could not have made it past the first page. Seriously, it’s bad)
- the metaphors and similes (just an example of the cringe-y writing: “His life before that was just a curtain of darkness- pitch-black emptiness darker than the darkest night.” *facepalm*)
- Certain plot things being hilariously convoluted or just plain Not Making Sense (I would list them, but that would be a whole blog post in itself, so…I won’t)
- People not needing any time to recover from Serious Injuries (such as bullet wounds and being impaled…son, you don’t just bounce back from these things)
- a certain character refusing to stay dead (dude, is it that hard)
- the hat thing (guys…just let it be a hat)
- the Stupid Sheep Kid (…he’s so stupid)
- …and have I mentioned the writing (IT IS SO BAD)
- Why do light novels exist? (THIS SHOULD BE MADE INTO MANGA)
- Not enough illustrations (because…it should be manga)
Verdict: Um…so…so as a book it kind of sucks. But the story has a lot of potential and Chuuya’s character development is a beautiful thing to see. It could be a solid anime or manga. But please don’t make me suffer through any more prose. (I’m still really glad I read it, but shhh.)
Well. That turned out to be a kind of eclectic grouping of books, didn’t it? I am not quite sure what to do with it. As someone who has always taken pride in my love of quality prose, I’m finding it rather alarming how much I enjoyed books like TUEOUH and Storm Bringer (not that those two belong in the same category- Storm Bringer is MUCH worse). Not that it really matters. Only it sort of triggers an identity crisis of some kind.
I get unnecessarily dramatic about things.
What have you been reading, these days? Anything cringe–y to share? What is the best book you’ve discovered recently? Have you ever suffered through a poorly written book for the sake of one particular character? Are you a Dickens fan?
4 thoughts on “Bookish Reviewish~ In Which We Shall Encounter Vampires, Anarchists, Kidnapping, Wellington, And Bread…Among Other Things”
“Is Jonathan Harker stupid? No. Of course not. He’s just not the best judge of character.” *dies laughing* It’s true, though.
Gabriel Syme is a wonderful character, and I’ve always loved him. The Man Who Was Thursday was the first Chesterton novel I read, and after reading significantly more of the guy’s stuff, I still don’t completely follow the ending. But it reminds me very, very strongly of the Book of Job, so I kind of love it regardless. But…yeah. A different reaction than “I love this utterly” is NOT AT ALL SURPRISING.
Oooh, I miss Dickens. Dreadfully. Maybe I will read Martin Chuzzlewit (or one of the others I haven’t read yet) soon…if I have time. So probably not. But I want to, you know.
It feels like I’ve read a strangely large amount of British writers making fun of Americans in ways that aren’t quite fair. Like. The way I always articulate it to myself is that they don’t seem to actually understand America/Americans? Which is particularly weird for authors like Dickens and Chesterton, whom I think of as very keen-sighted about human nature in general, but…like, okay, so maybe we don’t understand the British Soul (or whatever you want to call it; I couldn’t think of any designation that sounded less ridiculous, unfortunately) any more than they understand the American Soul, but I think perhaps because Americans tend to grow up reading a bunch of British stuff and learning a bunch of British history and all that, we feel like they should understand us better because we are so steeped in their culture. But they’re not steeped in our culture the same way. So maybe that explains it? I don’t know. (I know British people got mad at Mark Twain for writing The Prince and the Pauper, but possibly that was just stuffy British people being stuffy British people?) Anyway, people from one culture trying to understand or explain another culture is an interesting phenomenon. Harder than it looks, apparently. (Also, sometimes I feel that I’ve become quite a prickly-skinned little American partisan in my old age. But like…it’s so annoying to be made fun of or criticized for things that are actually good, or that you’re actually proud of being different from the British in? Or that simply aren’t true? America and Americans have flaws, but so often when they get talked about by outsiders, it’s not the actual flaws that get labelled flaws? I don’t know. Sorry for this very lengthy rabbit trail.)
I GENUINELY DO NOT KNOW IF THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY OR NOT. Which kind of almost makes it even better. The first preface TOTALLY gives me William Goldman vibes. I’m so glad you read it and enjoyed it. It was…wonderful. I think my favorite part was Matilda, dying, yelling not at her father who stabbed her but at her true love who tried to save her to stay his impious hand, it is her father. Like, first of all, kids, this is why you turn on the lights before you stab people. Second of all, did someone put limits on filial piety? Someone should’ve put limits on filial piety…
I AM ALSO SO GLAD YOU SURVIVED GOING TO THE GUILLOTINE. Vive la Sponge!
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Oh, Jonathan. He’s a dear, but also…*facepalm*
Gabriel Syme! Yes, he is wonderful. I think he’s my favorite Chesterton character, though overall I might like The Ball and the Cross better than The Man Who Was Thursday (I haven’t really decided yet).
Okay, so I’m not the only one who was baffled by the ending. I actually kind of like that you are comparing it the the book of Job? I think I can see that. (But also…the book of Job is less creepy.)
Ah, Dickens. Such quality. I always mean to read more Dickens than I actually do, though. It’s sort of hard to commit to getting through one of his books, delightful as they are. I’m always happy when I finally get to one. I recently bought several Dickens volumes at a library book sale, which is what inspired the Martin Chuzzlewit reading. Otherwise who knows when I would have gotten to it?
Okay…but your whole paragraph about British authors on Americans is so articulate and makes SO MUCH SENSE. For some reason I hadn’t really put that together before, the fact that Americans are so steeped in British culture but that doesn’t go the other way. It’s not that I didn’t know that, but somehow it just didn’t click until now. My mind has been blown. *applauds your insight* And just, the whole concept of different cultures trying to understand and write about each other is so interesting? I wish I had more things to say to continue this conversation because it’s a fascinating topic, but I don’t have the brain right now. Do not apologize, I quite love reading your rabbit trails! I always welcome them.
Haha, indeed. It is quite the entertaining story, especially because it takes its ridiculousness SO SERIOUSLY. The part where Matilda is dying is great (that sounds kind of wrong, but okay). “Like, first of all, kids, this is why you turn on the lights before you stab people.” XD Gold, I say.
THANK YOU, FRIEND!
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Welcome back from the late 1700s!
You’ve reminded me that I need to read another Dickens book. It’s been a while.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep sounds interesting. I didn’t care for Inkheart when I was younger, but maybe I’ll take to this one instead.
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Thank you, it’s good to be back!
I know. Dickens should be a part of any healthy bookworm’s diet. Dickens deficiency must be remedied.
In my opinion, The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is superior to Inkheart. But I read Inkheart when I was maybe twelve, and don’t remember it all that well… I do know that I read the first two books and kind of liked them but never got around to reading book three? So I must not have been all that invested. I think that the characters in TUEOUH are much more endearing, and the concept of reading things out of books is more nuanced. Even if you weren’t a fan of Inkheart, I would definitely recommend giving this one a chance.