Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Charlotte Bronte (1816-1865)

I started reading Villette one, it was recommended to me from a good friend and two, because I liked Charlotte Bronte’s other book, Jane Eyre. I thought Villette might be a dark tale filled with secrets and sadness. I was sadly disappointed. Villette didn’t live up to my expectations in that area. It was hardly what I expected at all.

The tale told in Villette is one of a young English girl that experiences untold hardships and makes her way to a little town in France to make a living as a school teacher. Lucy Snowe is very much a loner in this foreign town and this loneliness brings her to great despair. She meets up by odd chances with old acquaintances and for a time becomes happy again. She goes back and forth between her happiness and despair. There is a certain professor at her school with whom she has a very strange relationship with. Slowly she falls in love with him but that is all I can say. The ending is alright. I was a little disappointed in the explanations given, they were somewhat vague.

Lucy Snowe is a very solitary character. She is very reclusive and spends a lot of time alone. At times I think she is very brave. She travels to a foreign land and tries to teach English at a French school. But other times I see her as very weak and unable to take care of herself. She is given the weak woman stereotype of the day. A couple of times she has a nervous breakdown and I just want to yell at her to get it together. I can relate to her a little bit in her reclusiveness. But I don’t understand how she can be so weak.

There are many interesting characters in this book. Most are mysterious in their ways. The most interesting character after Lucy Snowe is M. Paul Emmanuel. I never really understood this character throughout the whole book. At first he seems to be very harsh and unforgiving. But later he is described as loved by all the students and teachers alike. So I believe now that I have completed the story, that he was a very strict teacher, but he was a good teacher. And for that everyone loved him. Each of the characters are very different from one another yet they each carry a mysterious aire about them. Most of the characters are connected to one another in some way.

The story is told from the point of view of Lucy Snowe. It is written in first person and so we as the reader is limited to the knowledge that she has. In this story it worked well to keep things unknown until the main character knows them. It keeps some suspense to the story. Personally it is not my favorite style. I like to know what the characters don’t know. Being that the story was told in first person, it was told completely in chronological order. There is no skipping around.

The location is part of what makes the story. Lucy is from England, had some troubles there, and went to find her fortune in France. She ends up at a school house and starts her life there. The language barrier is her first difficulty. Then she faces the loneliness of living in a boarding house alone when the children go off to their holiday. The little town that she is in is the perfect setting for her wanderings. The time period is fitting as well.

I thought this story would be sadder than it was. There were moments of sadness, some of mystery, some of suspense, but it almost didn’t move very much for me. At one point while I was reading, I wondered where this story was going. There isn’t a real big climax to it. Its just the story of a girl trying to make her way.

I can’t say that there was one thing I liked about this book. It wasn’t horrible to read, it just didn’t go anywhere. One thing I didn’t like was all the French phrases throughout the whole book. I enjoy a book more when I can understand everything they say.

The ending of the book was a little disappointing. It was very vague in the description. I don’t want to give it away, but it did upset me that there was no explanation. I like happy endings were there are rainbows and ponies. This book doesn’t tell me what happens. It’s a little frustrating.

My lasting impression of this book is that its not my favorite. I’m glad I read it so now I can say I’ve read two Charlotte Bronte books. But I’m not going to strongly recommend it. I didn’t feel strong emotions when I read it. And I like to feel for my characters. I do think that a lot of women would like this book. There is a bit of romance, but its more subtle than most desire it to be. I think people could relate to at least one of the characters in this book. There is a wide variety and they are all unique. So I would give this a middle rating. Not my favorite, but I could see that some would love it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Les Miserables

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

I started this book because I knew it was a classic book. I’ve seen the movie and was touched by the message that it brought and was sure that the book would give more detail and convey a better story. I was correct in assuming this. Les Miserables tells the story of a convict that finds a new life after being forgiven by a Bishop. Jean Valjean, the convict, takes care of an orphan girl, Cosette, gives generously of his money to the poor, as he hides from the police since he escaped from the galleys. He ends in aiding a young gentleman that becomes the suitor of Cosette, and leads them to marriage. Jean Valjean is rejected by the young man after he finds that he was a convict, until the true story of the Jean’s generosity is made known by an interesting twist of events. Forgiveness is eventually given and the young people are happy in ending up together.

The character Jean Valjean was interesting to follow. At sometimes he made me frustrated because I didn’t understand why he would be so hard. But as I read I understood that his hardness came from his unfair treatment by those that knew him to be an ex-convict. It was impossible for one that was released from the galleys to do anything. Jean Valjean learned forgiveness from the Bishop that he first encounters and from then on lives by kindness and mercy. His heart is softened toward the needy and he does everything in his power to help those around him. I’m not sure that I could relate to him very well. He was a very secretive in all he did. I could almost relate to Cosette because she was a young woman and she falls in love. Of course my heart goes out to the love story that is entwined in this book. She is very innocent and chaste. In some ways I want to relate to her because of her innocence.

Marius was one of the characters that was really interesting to me. I don’t quite understand him and he brings curiosity to my mind. He rejected his grandfather because of his political views, but ended being a little wishy-washy when it came to standing up to his peers about it. The characters were each believable in their own way. This book really tells of the decay of society in France after the revolution. The poor were truly destitute and there was no way out. Children ran in the street barefoot during the winter and died of starvation. The characters represented different levels of society and what each thought of the other.

The point of view is that of an observer. He knows everything that is happening and the true story. The characters are limited in their knowledge and are sometimes mislead by others or their own ideas. The view that I had as a reader brought me into the story knowing that some characters were wrong in their judgments and I felt angry or grieved or frustrated by them. It gave me emotions that I could put into the story.

The location is what makes this story true. The time period is also equally important. It is based on the post-napoleon France where the country is trying to recover from civil war and tension is still very strong between the people and the government. There is a bit of history given in some of the chapters and it adds to the realistic scene this story sets. I didn’t know very much about the French Revolution before and was interested in learning more. A little of it was over my head, but I got the gist of the story. And since it was presented in the midst of this fictional story it helped me to understand how it really was for the people at that time. Even though this story switched between different characters it was still chronological to the events. There was some back stepping when it told the historical events, but this helped set up the platform for the ongoing story.

This story brought on all different emotions as I read it. I was angry at Jean Valjean for taking advantage of the Bishop and his family when they showed him kindness. And angry again when the Bishop forgave him. As Jean Valjean’s character developed I sympathized with him in his hardships. I felt joy when he was able to escape from the police and hid with Cosette in a convent. There was excitement when Jean Valjean followed Marius into the barricade to save him and bring him back to Cosette. There was pity on the poor family that had to stoop to thievery and deceit to feed themselves.

My favorite part of this book is the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but all the kindness that Jean Valjean gave and the selflessness that he lived is appreciated and seen for what it was. He truly lived for his Cosette and her happiness and it was realized in the end. The little things that he did that reached those around him were recognized and it ended well.

The saddest thing about this book was reading about the children that would starve and not be taken care of. I don’t like to read about the mistreatment of children and how they suffer. It makes me glad that society has come a long way from that, but at the same time there are places were children still suffer like they did in France long ago. I don’t like facing that reality because it makes me uncomfortable. But I know see the truth of what those children had to face.

I really enjoyed this book. I finished it in a week because it kept me so interested. I read of the wonderful kindness and mercy that one person can have can effect the rest of someone else’s life. The bishop’s kindness brought about many blessings on others because it showed Jean Valjean to live a new life. This book is a ten. I would recommend it to everyone.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe (unknown-1731) – Well, this book starts off very boring. I almost didn’t continue reading it. The first couple of chapters did not grab my attention at all. Part of the struggle I had was the writing style. It’s written entirely in first person with very little dialogue. That is just not a style that I am fond of. The story line was not one of too much excitement. A man was trapped on an island. And it told of his despair while on that island. The beginning of the book was a bit of back ground to how he got to this island. It wasn’t very descriptive and rushed through. I didn’t realize that it was a background to the story for quite some time. I thought the whole book was going to be rushed as well. To some degree there was a rush to the plot and not in a keep the book moving kind of way. It seemed to skip some parts mostly to keep it from being too long. After getting through the intro and on toward what life was like for him on a deserted island it did get a little more interesting. One thing that was surprising to me was the amount of theology included within this book. Crusoe happened to have a bible among the things he rescued off of his ship and proceeded to become a strong Christian. He shares his struggles and how he learns from the bible about God and how to be a true follower. It was interesting to read because most books I read have people that are nominally Christians but don’t really live it. This man lived it and was passionate. He even witnessed to one of the natives that he eventually saved from others and kept as a servant. In the end he is saved by a ship and a captain that he saves from a mutiny. In short, it is an ok read. The beginning is boring but it picks up as you go and becomes a little more interesting. At least enough to get through it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Eustace Diamonds

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) – I absolutely loved this book. The characters were interesting, the story was well written, it was easy to follow. First off the characters were so well described that by the end of the book I felt like I knew them. Lizzie Eustace, a very unlikely heroine, is a person that I thoroughly despise. She is full of lies, and trickery. As a young widow she is faced with the trouble of some diamonds that her husband “gave” her. She completely believes the diamonds were a gift, but the rest of society believes she stole them from the Eustace family. It was interesting to learn the value of titles and property ownership of England in the eighteen hundreds. This story of this book is based upon that value and the attempt to recover property to the family. The other characters are continually manipulated by Lizzie because of her beauty and also her lies. She is described as very clever. Indeed she is. As the reader, I was given important information that none of the other characters received. It made the story all the more interesting to have all knowledge while the characters were limited. I was very happy that the story kept moving. There was never a dull spot. I wasn’t surprised in any place by certain events because I had special knowledge, but it didn’t keep me from reading. There was a certain suspense that kept me entertained and drew me to the end of the book. I learned a lot about the society of the English in this book too. The views on women and politics and marriage and an assortment of other things was a lot to take in. I do feel that from reading this book I might be able to understand other books from this time period a little better. One other thing about the characters is that I could relate to each of them in a different way. Many of the characters were dynamic in their attitudes and feelings. This made them seem much more real to life and interesting. Most people aren’t the same throughout their life and so the dynamics of what these characters went through was good to read. I could go on and on. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn about 19th century English society.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Mayor of Casterbridge

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) – This is a book worth reading! I was thoroughly entertained throughout and finished it quickly. The story seemed to start rather abruptly. It jumped right into what I thought was going to be the climax. But it just built upon that point as the background for the rest of the book. I liked that it moved along. There was never a dull moment where I wished it would just get to the next part. The characters were very interesting. They were easily depicted in the beginning and were very distinct in there character. One thing that I thought was interesting was that one of the main characters, Henchard, changed and matured through the story. I liked how that change came about from the different circumstances he was in. Granted he still wasn’t the best of people when the end came, but he did strive to improve although it seemed like so many were against him. There were many twists to the story as well. It was somewhat predictable in the turns it took, but they came about when they were least expected. That’s how it kept moving. The writing style was also very easy to read. I believe this was a cleaned up version so that it wasn’t in the older English that it was originally written in. But the flow of the language and the dialect used for the characters were easy to read and understand. I enjoy a book better when I’m not squeezing my brain to get it. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting an entertaining read.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Portrait of a Lady

Henry James (1843-1916) – Well it took me forever to get through this little book. For one, it wasn’t very interesting. And secondly it didn’t go anywhere. I felt like there was no build up to a climax. I easily lost interest a few pages into the book. As I continued, hoping to find something to make the story worth my time, but I didn’t. It seemed to be well written. And I assume that is why it is deemed a classic. I just didn’t find the story line worth reading. I don’t like to read a book that I have to force my self to finish.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Brothers Karamazov

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) – This book was way too long. The story could have been told in a quarter of what was written. For me there was too much talking. The philosophies of the characters were way too long. I can understand the desire to write this book as a way to explain different views on life, religion and politics. But it wasn’t very relevant to me and so I lost interest. Dostoevsky still does a great job explaining the characters. They are very definite in their characteristics and as I read about them I can picture them very clearly. There are very good descriptions, not only of the people but of the places and situations, throughout this book. The descriptions of the philosophies are too long, but of all the other things it is quite interesting. Some characters I enjoy and others I hate. My opinions were formed very quickly and easily because of the descriptions. The writing style almost changes throughout the book. The entire story is a collection of twelve short books. I can tell the Dostoevsky wrote the different books throughout a long period of time. It all flows together, but going from one book to the next it is a little disjointed. The ending is not at all what I wanted it to be. I can see it coming and I started to get angry at how I know it will turn out. It’s a little disappointing that it ends in the way it does, but it couldn’t be helped. That’s just how it is and I’m sure Dostoevsky had a point in writing it like he did. The epilogue doesn’t end in a way that makes sense. It just sort of drops off. I didn’t learn anything further about the characters that I didn’t already know. Generally the epilogue will carry the story a little further to satisfy the curiosity of the reader, but in this case it did not satisfy any desires I had about what happens later to the characters. In all this is a good book if you want to read about Dostoevsky’s views on politics, religion and life in Russia. Otherwise, read something more interesting.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Baroness Orczy (1865-1947) – What a great adventure this book holds! I couldn’t put it down. The story was a little different than what I anticipated, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Scarlet Pimpernel is an unknown English gentleman helping to rescue countless French noblemen from their doom on the guillotine. The identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel is so well concealed that even his wife has not the slightest suspicion. The story mostly follows Lady Blakeney. She has to decide between betraying the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel (which is unknown to even her) and the life of her brother. This decision leads her on an adventure to find her husband and warn him of the danger that is coming. Fortunatly he is not as dumb as most think he is. His cover of being a fool makes him unsuspected and leads to his success. There is rekindled love between Lady Blakeney and her husband Percy. This of course is interesting to read. It adds a little flavor to the story. I think it is quite obvious that a woman wrote this book. The characters and the story line are definitely following a woman’s ideas. The contrast of a woman’s romantic story is quite different from a man’s. I do recommend this for anyone that is looking for a quick read of an adventure with a dash of romance.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Nicholas Nickleby

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) – I must say that Dickens is now one of my favorite authors. He has a very creative way of writing about social injustices while adding a comical air to the seriousness of it. He doesn’t take lightly the atrocities that children and the poor class went through, but he does present them with a picture of comedy. He also has a way of describing people so that you know them in the first introduction. Not only their physical description, but mostly in their character and attitude. My favorite character was probably Mrs. Nickleby. She was also very annoying. She would chatter on and on about things that don’t make any sense and aren’t relevant to the conversation. Her long winded stories about people she knew in the past and those around her amused me very much. Nicholas on the other had is also a favorite character. He is of course the hero of the story. He stands up for what he believes is right and works hard to achieve a happy life for his mother and sister. They suffered very much in the beginning after the death of Mr. Nickleby. Nicholas’ adventures in the book show how courageous and strong he was just to provide a safe home for his mother and sister. His uncle, Ralph Nickleby, was definitely the villain of the story. He really had no heart towards anyone. It was very frustrating to me to read of his plans against Nicholas and his family. I wanted to always find Nicholas and warn him of the danger that was at hand. Especially when it came to Ralph and his old friend’s scheme to marry the young, fair Madeline Bray. She was an angel in troubled waters. The plans of Ralph were of course thwarted by the friends of Madeline. And much to Nicholas’ joy because he loved her, but this was unknown to anyone until the end of the book. There really is a lot that goes on in this story and it is hard to summarize it all. It does have a happy ending, the kind you hope for, for good people like Nicholas. I’m looking forward to reading more of Dickens’ novels. He is a very skilled writer.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Man in the Iron Mask

Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) – This story, in my opinion, wasn’t one of the best written by Dumas. The story line was well done, but the way in which it was written was difficult for me to follow. It jumped into the middle of confusion and right off the bat it was hard to know what was going on. Many times it would follow one person on their part of the story and when they would meet up with someone else of importance it would follow them for a few chapters and then go back to the other person. It sounds confusing to even describe it. Fortunately a few of the characters I was already familiar with from reading The Three Musketeers. The famous musketeers come back in this story to fight against each other, preserving what they each believe to be in the true interest of the kingdom. I did thoroughly enjoy the story. After finishing it I think it was easier to understand what was went on and how it came to that ending. The adventures that were carried out in this story were very true to Dumas’ natural writing. He captures the adventure in chases and sword fights. I love the action that goes on in his books. The book didn’t follow the story line that I at first thought it might. It seemed to move very quickly to different directions. Again, I almost didn’t know what was going on until I finished the book. The story progresses from one moment to the next very quickly and the story completely changes. It is quite interesting to read. I do recommend it, most likely right after reading The Three Musketeers. I think it would help to keep the characters straight and also to keep up with the writing style.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Romance of the Forest

Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) – It was a little hard for me to get into this book. The beginning seemed to have a slow start. The build up to the main events of the story were good background, but were very wordy and slow. At the start of the second volume things started to get interesting. The excitement of kidnapping, deceit and murder along side love, mercy and tenderness complete this tale of Gothic romance. I don’t have too much to say on this book. It was a good read. The ending was very perfect in its completion of the wrong-doers getting what they deserved. The twists of how the characters are all related to one another creates an interesting dynamic as the story progresses. The writing style of Ann Radcliffe is very flowery and full of description. Its fun to read when in an imaginative mood, but if you aren’t in the mood to read its difficult to get through. The actual plot of the story could be told in a much shorter book, but with all the detailed description it doubles the story. Over all it was a good book. But be prepared to get into the imaginative mind of a woman.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) – This was a very interesting read. I’m not sure why its one of the great American novels, but it has potential. I’m not too fond of Hawthorne’s writing style. It is very descriptive, but the wording was a little confusing to me at times. The storyline annoyed me also. I don’t think I quite understand the beliefs of the people at that time. If I were to study more into they Puritan lifestyle and know their laws and morals and such I would be much more sympathetic to the characters. This day in age it is nothing out of the ordinary for a woman to have an illegitimate child. And a priest as well. I was really rooting for them to run away. But that stupid husband of hers messed up their plan. The ending is sad, but they did have it coming. Sin always has a consequence. Unfortunately, as religious as that community was, they did not understand the true forgiveness that God grants when people repent. They were living in the past, only thinking of their one wrong doing. If they truly understood the way God works, their lives would have been much happier. Yes, there still would be consequences, but life would have been more joyful. And after that little rant, I suppose I would say this is a book most people should read. It’s a little hard to follow at times, but it’s a good story. One that people can learn from.

Saturday, February 3, 2007


Jane Austin (1775-1870) – Jane Austin never fails to enlighten her readers with a book about love, social status and morality. As her last book, it was full of a more mature writing like others have said. But as far as story line goes, it is not my favorite. It seems rather drawn out and the course of events frustrated me. Some of the characters were annoying too. The main character, Anne, finds here self still in love with the man she was engaged to eight years ago. She broke it off then to please the advice of a family friend of great influence. When Captain Wentworth’s family rents Anne’s own home she comes back into contact with him and the feelings are renewed. She obviously likes him still, although she doesn’t admit it until halfway through the book. He is still angry towards her for splitting up, but later gets over it and comes back to her. It’s not a complicated story, but it doesn’t come without an entwinement of characters. Austin uses all her flowery language to describe places, people and character. The formality of the characters between one another was almost too much for me. I just wanted them to run into each other’s arms and proclaim their love. But that doesn’t happen with Jane Austin. She kept the strict rule of social classes intact and made sure that there was pride and deceit on the side of most of the characters. That is one reason I was annoyed. Although I did not like parts of it, this is one of the three Jane Austins that everyone should read. Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. (At least this is the list of what I’ve read so far.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Madame Bovary

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) – Well this book was a little different than what I normally read. It contains a scandalous tale of a woman that has two affairs to satisfy her desire for love. The build up to the main story of the book helped me understand why she didn’t care for her husband. Although he really wasn’t a bad man. She was just blinded by the ideals of love and romance found in fiction stories. This book ends in suicide and a complete devastation of her family. It’s really quite sad to read. Every time she got bored of her life at home I was upset with her at her inability to accept the blessings she has. I don’t think I’ll ever read this book again, but it was a very interesting read. Apparently this book created an uproar when it was published because of the intimate details that were part of Madame Bovary’s affairs. Her adulterous behavior was not something that was to be published. But it was later accepted as a monumental book that change the way book were looked at. I did enjoy reading it because it was different and gave me a new story to read. The style of writing was a little difficult to read. It may be the translation I have or perhaps just Flaubert’s style. It’s in third person past tense but at the same time its revealing things only at the same time the characters find out. It’s interesting now that I think about it, but I was a little annoyed as I read. I had to reread some parts to understand what was happening. If you want something different to read then go for it. Its not bad.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Bram Stoker (1847-1912) – Well this was one of the most thrilling books I have read. I could barely put it down and was done reading it in a week. The story itself is very interesting and is written in journal form from the perspective of all the different characters. There are a few particular people involved in the story and are all effected by Dracula in some form. Their main goal is to figure him out and destroy him. The fast paced action in this book creates a fascinating scene and I really wanted to find out what would happen. If you don’t particularly like reading classic novels this is a good one to read anyway. It brings you into the world of classic literature but is interesting enough to keep your attention. The author was genius in his creation of a creature that would last for many years to come. There has been so much done with the story of Dracula in years since that it is truly a hit. The contents of this book are thrilling and I just don’t have the right words to describe it. At times I felt like some of the characters weren’t very smart. They went about things in a very round about way and I wanted them to just explain their actions to one another. I believe part of that frustration I had was because it was in journal form. I only knew as much as the individuals knew. The story happened at the same pace as the journal and I was a part of the story. I liked it but sometimes I wish I was given the knowledge of a narrator. Overall it was great. I would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting a good book.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Great Expectations

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) – The title of this book carries much of the weight of the story. This novel tells of a poor orphan boy, Pip. He is not able to recognize happiness and stay a hard worker in the blacksmith shop with Joe. He strives for what he thinks will be a better life. Once he is there he doesn’t find the happiness he desires because he finds his riches come from one that is not worthy in his eyes. I find that Pip is very ungrateful throughout most of the story. It is true that he is mistreated as a child and doesn’t have anything to be grateful for, but later he is blessed with some opportunities and doesn’t know how to be thankful for them.
There is a strange connection between all of the characters in this book. They are somehow related to one another in some sort of way. If not by blood then by incident. The book gives some very interesting twists in the relation of people that keeps it interesting. I almost want to yell at some of the characters to figure it out and to just get along. But the nature of the characters is very strong and unchanging.
Dickens definitely uses a style of writing that gets at your emotions rather than your head. It is very easy to follow the heart of the main character and what he is feeling. It is also easy to get angry at certain characters when they take advantage of another’s position. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was well written and kept me interested. I will for sure read another Dickens book at some time or another.