Book 414: Bel Ami – Guy de Maupassant

de Maupassant, Guy - Bel AmiAfter a two month hiatus I am back with the 45th book from my Classics Club list. That’s 45% of my list done and I’m only 32 books behind schedule ;-)

Going into Bel Ami I thought I knew what the book was about, but I wasn’t aware it had a subtitle, The History of a Scoundrel, which would’ve told me I was in no way correct!

If I’m honest I chose Bel Ami because it was short and accessible on my phone. (Thank you Kindle iPhone app, this isn’t the first time you’ve saved me from boredom.) I forgot the next book I wanted to read and an hour is a long time for lunch so I started this and read it pretty quickly. You’d think I would use lunch and my commute to catch up on my 10+ hours of back logged podcasts to listen to, but no why would I do that when there are more books to read!?

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Book 401: Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - Pride & PrejudiceIt will come as no surprise that this is the first book to reach three re-reads since I started The Oddness of Moving Things. I read it twice in 2013, January and August, in honor of its 200th publication date.

What WILL come as a surprise is that I was supposed to read this for our final installment of Jane Austen Book Group and I didn’t! Everything was so busy and I somehow got so flustered that I didn’t read it in time. Thankfully, I know the story so well and had read the Marvel Illustrated version earlier this year, I was capable of discussing it without too much effort. I did know that as soon as I finished trudging through The Dante Club I had to get this re-read to feel as if I’d completed our Jane Austen Book Club for the year! And it’s a great refresher before I dive right into Prejudice & Pride a “gender-bendy twist” on the original by Lynn Messina that comes out December 15th.

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Book 395: Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller

Miller, Henry - Tropic of CapricornI didn’t think it was possible, but I liked this one even less than Tropic of Cancer. Seriously, I was in no way a fan of this book. The amount of raunchy sleazy descriptions in Tropic of Capricorn, if possible out weight those in the first novel.

The only thing I can truly say I’m grateful for is that I got it off my shelf where it’s languished since the 2010 Boston Book Festival (it was the last one!). It also counts toward my Classics Club list so yay for that too!

I can’t even pretend it’s hard to say why I didn’t like this book, it really was just too much sex, misogyny, sexual assault and crass language. When you add in the stream-of-consciousness I’m surprised I even got through the book. It’s no wonder the book was banned in America (Wikipedia link) for 30 years. I don’t believe in book banning or censorship, but this really tested my limits.

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Book 390: The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Plath, Sylvia - The Bell JarThis is one of those books that has so much umph in the cultural milieu that it’s a wonder I’ve never read it before. I squeezed it in just in time this month to get a podcast recorded to be released at the end of the month. If you’re in the Boston area and you want to record one let me know! :-D But, more importantly than podcasting, this book counts as the 43 book of my Classics Club journey. (See, I told you I was still chipping away). I’m so far off target it’s not even funny, but I’m glad that I’m still occasionally reading from my list.

Let’s start with the big to-do about this novel. Maybe it’s not that much of a to-do, but it felt like one. I still don’t know how much of this novel to believe is fiction. It’s very clearly labeled as fiction and yet it is very clearly Plath’s own personal story. I mean her mom wrote a letter to the American publishers saying these are real people and real stories thinly veiled as characters! There is one point where I couldn’t help but laugh because Plath writes Esther, the main character, writing a novel about a character doing the same thing. HOW META CAN YOU GET?! This is the same story being told by three different people all of whom are telling/experiencing the same story.

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Book 389: Emma (Manga Classics) – Stacy King, Crystal Chan and Po Tse

King, Stacy and Po Tse - Emma (Manga Classics)Having just finished reading the Marvel Illustrated version of Emma, I figured why not try the Manga Classics version! I received a copy from Udon Entertainment in return for my honest opinion with no compensation. And let me tell you, I am very glad I requested it!

The closest thing I’ve ever come to reading manga is watching Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z in high school and I never thought I would actually read one. I’m glad however, that I happened to listen to this Good Job, Brain! podcast the week before I read this! I felt so knowledgeable going in. This won’t be a side-by-side comparison of the two graphic adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma, but I’m sure I will refer to the major differences between the two. But first, let’s start with how to read manga.

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Book 388: Emma (Marvel Illustrated) – Nancy Butler and Janet Lee

Butler, Nancy, Jane Austen and Janet Lee - EmmaBefore I conquer Dr. Mütter’s Marvels, I decided to read the Marvel Illustrated version of Emma. If you’re not aware, Emma is my least favorite of Jane Austen’s novels. (Gasp! Horror!) This being said, I’m getting ready to read my first manga which also happens to be Emma, so maybe I’ll find something to enjoy in the story.

I will start that having already read Northanger Abbey, also adapted by Nancy Butler and Janet Lee in the Marvel Illustrated series, it made reading this one a bit easier. I think a large part of this is a direct response to the cover art of Northanger Abbey, it was so different from Lee’s illustrations. This one had the same illustration style for the story AND the covers. It definitely helped and didn’t set up any false expectations.

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Book 381: Northanger Abbey (Marvel Illustrated) – Nancy Butler & Janet Lee

Butler, Nancy, Jane Austen and Janet Lee - Northanger AbbeyI’m so glad I’m on Austen overload this year. I’m not really sure what I do on the years I don’t read this much Austen. Does that actually happen? I should start tracking my Austen reads in addition to everything else I track.

This is the second of the Marvel Illustrated Jane Austen series and I have to say I’m impressed so far. Butler knows how to reduce down the stories to their key elements without losing any of the wit and humor Austen infuses into her work. I preferred the illustration style of Hugo Petrus from Pride & Prejudice versus Janet Lee of Northanger Abbey. Which is interesting because I know it took me a while to adjust to that style, maybe when I read Emma, also illustrated by Lee, I won’t have as many issues. All of this being said, I really enjoyed this adaptation.

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