A Review of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the revised edition

I read this book with my Facebook book club, The Writer’s Block: A Book Club. When this book was chosen I was really excited because it’s been a classic on my TBR pile for a long time. This was finally the push I needed to actually get into it. After we voted on the book the next order of business was the edition: The Original or The Revised. I didn’t even know there was more than one edition, so this took some research on my part. I discovered that the revised edition is the version that Mary Shelley herself has proclaimed the true edition, so that is the one I decided we would read.

The basic premise for this story is well known to most people. Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge and the understanding of science. His goal becomes to bring to life one who has surpassed death. He creates a homunculus and then through science brings it to life and the monster is then so horrifying to him that it becomes beyond his control and havoc ensues.

I quite enjoyed this book but more when the tale is told through the monster’s perspective than Victor’s. I feel that Victor is a slightly insane, narcissistic, selfish individual and the monster a victim of circumstance and what the depths of loneliness can drive a man to do. There is nothing worse than rejection and the monster knows nothing but this in its pitiful life even among the destruction it causes.

I don’t feel this book to be much like any of the Frankenstein movie/tv/comic adaptations at all. I came into this book thinking I knew exactly what was going to happen but I was wrong. I think this story is much more of a sad tragedy than a real monster/ghost story. I do recommend this book to lovers of classics but it’s not a book for everyone. It is definitely written in a gothic antiquated style of writing. And Victor is extremely self absorbed so he tends to rattle for chapters on inner monologue.

A Review of Outlander (Book 1) by Diana Gabaldon

While exploring the Scottish countryside while on a scholarly trip with her husband, Frank, Claire Randall finds herself on a hill wrapped in mystery called Craigh na Dun. After witnessing what appeared to be a pagan ritual involving possible witches she goes back to see if she could figure out what was happening. Wandering through the rocks, she somehow gets sucked through a crack and comes to amidst a skirmish of some sort. She meets a man who happens to be an english soldier of some kind. She quickly realizes this man looks exactly like her husband Frank. The man quickly attacks her and tries to rape her. She is suddenly rescued and whisked away but finds she is also now a captive to a band of cattle thieves who think her an english spy.

After awhile she puts things together and realizes she’s been spirited away to 1740s Scotland. After being taken to Castles Leoch and establishing that she is in the lands of the clan McKenzie, Claire settles into castle life while still plotting her way back to the standing stones and her husband Frank. But the ruggedly handsome Jamie Fraser is a huge distraction to that plan. Will Claire find her way back to Frank and her time or will she fall in love with the young Highlander and give up all she knows for the past?

There are many things about this book that I absolutely loved. The slow burning romance between Claire and Jamie was fascinating. The very confusing way the McKenzie and Fraser clans were related was interesting. There was a lot of mystery within the different characters and what was going on with them, like whether or not characters were good or bad. The character development was phenomenal.

But, on the flip side of that coin, I felt like the way the characters responded to each other in certain situations was outside how they would behave when you consider how they’ve been presented up to that point. I felt I got to know these characters and Claire and Jamie especially. I came to see them as friends that I was rooting for and while most of their actions were very much them, some were far too unbelievable. The other problem I had with this one is that it was far too long. I thought parts could be cut out that seemed to be more filler than actual necessary pieces to unravel the story.

I give this one a 4 out of 5. This book won’t be for everyone. It contains strong language and strong sexual content. It is also more romance than history, though there is quite a bit of action. So much happens that it seems more like an epic than a novel. I hope if you read it, that you enjoy it like I did.

A Review of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Gilead is a postwar society that assigns women very specific jobs. Some of these jobs include handmaids and marthas. A very small percentage become wives to the men in higher power positions. Offred is a handmaid. She is nothing more than a vessel. Because she is deemed one of the few fertile women after the affects of nuclear fallout she has 3 chances to conceive a child with the Commander in charge of her household, so that his wife may adopt this child and become a mother. In Gilead, women are no more than property and functioning machines.

I think this book is relevant to today. Especially when they describes the political ideology. It is extremely well written and the author has a firm grasp of how to capture a reader and make them feel what the character feels. I found myself worrying about my own safety in a postwar society like this. The way the take over is described seems scary and probably to me.

This is, in fact, one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. And it left me with a feeling of hopelessness after finishing it. I hated the ending. It was extremely abrupt and the historical notes seemed like they should’ve wrapped things up better. Instead I was just left frustrated and weary of the whole think. I’m not a leave it up to your imagination type person. This book has a lot of political ideology and religion. Gilead is a society run by misconstrued political beliefs. I don’t even think the men who created this society really believed the foundation they build their new country on. I think it was a ruse to dominate women and to use them for their own purposes. In an already male dominated society, its scary to think that our rights could so swiftly be taken from us.

I enjoyed this book til the very end. I gave it a 4 out of 5. I thought the end fell apart. Atwood could’ve done so much more with such a strong plot. I look forward to watching the new series based on this book and what they may do with it. I recommend this book to everyone. I think it is a good reminder of the way things could go if we don’t keep our politicians in check and our eyes open to false doctrine.

A Review of The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Jean Perdu is a man who has spent the last 20 years of his life in mourning and angry about a woman who spurned him and then died. He lives his life angry at her for leaving him, doesn’t sleep, and lives a very basic sedentary life. He runs a bookstore on a barge floating in the Seine River, called the Literary Apothecary. He has a special talent for reading people emotionally with a minimum of information. With this skill and his love for books he prescribes books to help patrons with what ails them emotionally. He’s been stuck in this rut for a long time, until a newly divorced woman moves into his building and a popular young author seeks refuge aboard his boat, and everything changes.

I absolutely loved this book. It gripped me emotionally from the first few pages. Perdu is a truly broken man and Nina George guides you along his journey as you empathize and feel for everything he is going for. I fell in love with each and every character in this book. They all possessed qualities that seemed to encourage each other to grow and is even great advice for the reader. I found this book to have some of the greatest quotes about life and love. The entire book is a roller coaster of every emotion imaginable. I found myself laughing one minute and crying the next.

There are parts of this book that I think are a bit wordy and I felt my attention drifting a bit, but just when I thought I might lose interest, I was reeled back into the story. There is some mild sexual content, as Perdu is a middle aged man who has completely shut himself down, and along the way he rediscovers his sexuality along with finding that his heart is still capable of love.

I will easily give this book 5 stars. There was no point where I was truly board and I truly empathized with Perdu and rooted for him as he created new friendships, built himself a family, and allowed himself to see the light in life again. I found myself not wanting it to end. I wanted more from the Epilogue. I fell completely in love with this book and the core characters.

A Review of Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I read this book because it was chosen to be read in the book club I run on facebook. This is a book I have been wanting to read for awhile anyway because I really enjoyed the Studio Ghibli movie they made from it. While the two differed quite a bit I enjoyed both.

Howl is a wizard known as the eater of young women’s souls. He is much feared in the lands his floating castle moves through. Sophie is a y0ung woman at the cusp of adulthood living a boring life in a hat shop, though she seemed to be very good at what she did. Then a woman came in and put a spell on her that ages her 60 years until she’s a very old woman. At that point she decides since she doesn’t have much time left she better go out to seek her fortune. When she comes to Wizard Howl’s castle she decides to go in and try to get a job with him since it is only young woman’s souls he’s after.

This book caught my attention from the very beginning and there was never a dull point. There was a lot going on and though it is pure fantasy there are many elements of mystery that you begin to see unfold throughout the story. I was not expecting the way the book ended at all. I had my guesses but I was caught completely off guard and the last 2 chapters in the book sunk it’s claws into my heart and I was captivated.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 and would give it even more if that was possible. I loved this book and easily put it in my top 10 books of all time. It is a quick and fun read and something I would consider rereading in the future, something I normally don’t do. I recommend this book to everyone who is a fan of the fantasy genre both young and all. There are no adult themes so this is something that would even make a great bed time story for children old enough for chapter books.

A Review of The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

Liesel Meminger is a half Jewish girl living in Nazi Germany. Her mother is Jewish but her father is German. Thankfully, she has her father’s blonde hair. Her mother takes her and her brother to foster care so they won’t be put into concentration camps because she is Jewish. On the train ride to the foster agency, her little brother dies of what seems to be pneumonia. They stop and bury him and by his grave she sees that the gravedigger has dropped a book. She later learns that the book is called The Gravedigger’s Handbook. It is the beginning of a lucrative career of book stealing. She takes this one in particular, because it reminds her of the last day she saw her mother and brother.

Shortly after that, Liesel is dropped off at the Hubermann’s. She says goodbye to her mother, not wanting her to leave, and never sees her again. What follows, is the story of a little girl who grows into a woman during Nazi Germany. She deals with all the issues that young adults during that time period dealt with: school, boys, hunger, sports, and finding your place in a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams.

This story is told through the eyes of death, a kind of jaded observer of humankind. He’s seen it all so nothing surprises or moves him until he meets Liesel. He follows Liesel and her story closer because I think she brings to him some sense of what humanity still could be amongst all this death and chaos. We see a lot more of the world when with death as the narrator but I felt like I was never fully immersed into the story like I would’ve been had it been narrated by Liesel. For one, Death never shows a whole lot of emotion and I’m drawn into a book more when I am made to feel what the characters feel.

Death also had a bad habit of revealing to the reader what was going to happen to the characters before it happened which I felt stole some of the raw emotion. I think that part of the trauma of a tragic story is the surprise that comes with a death you weren’t expecting. Also, the book tended to jump into a different time period right when I was being drawn into a scene. Then in the next chapter it might go back to the middle of that scene and it was just very disjointed to me. I think this book would’ve been more impactful with a linear story line.

Overall it is a good book. I would recommend it and it is interesting to see how the Nazi Party affected the other side. I found out that the Germans were poor and starving too. They may not have had to go through the concentration camps but the youth had to go to meetings for the Nazi Youth where they were treated very poorly and it was a lot like boot camp. Life was not easy during that time for anyone. Even the wealthy seem to be plagued with horrors of their own, like loss of loved ones in the war. I would give this book a 3.5 out of 5.

A Review of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Harry’s 6th year starts out a little differently. Only 2 years into summer vacation Dumbledore retrieves Harry and takes him on a mission to get Horace Slughorn to come out of retirement and begin teaching. Slughorn is a bit of a collector of influential students and people. And Dumbledore is correct. The lure of Harry Potter convinces him to return.

But when the golden trio return to Hogwarts they discover that things have changed. Slughorn was not hired on as the replacement Defense Against the dark arts teacher as they assumed but instead is teaching Potions. Instead, Snape seems to have gotten his way with Dumbledore and finally been promoted to the Defense position he always wanted.

This volume starts out with many interesting mysteries that leave the reader confused as they slowly unravel. What is Malfoy up to? What happened to Dumbledore’s hand? Delving more into Tom Riddle/Voldemort’s history seems to hold the keys to all these mysteries.

This installment started out strong but some parts slowed down a lot for ke, especially when Harry was going over facts pertaining to the case over and over again. It started to seem very tedious and it’s a lot of getting others opinions and nobody believes him again. But the book goes out with a bang and a cliffhanger like ending had me itching to move on to the final book in the series.

Though it had slow parts I gave this one a 5 because it gave me a lot of new information, things to think about, and contained some of the most emotional scenes up to this point. I would highly recommend it. I think it feels in a lot of blanks even while opening up more.