Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Les Miserables

Book Review:Les Misérables by Victor Hugo**


Things to know up front...


Recommended to: classic fans, historical fiction fans, people that are okay with huge books, people prepared to have their souls crushed several times over. 


Rating: 9/10


Setting: Paris, France, during the early 19th century


Content:



  • No real sexual content. Men and their mistresses are talked about, prostitution is mentioned a few times, a couple's wedding night is briefly spoken of, but if you aren't reading carefully, you probably won't even catch that it's sexual. In addition, any sex outside of marriage tends to be narrated with a tone of pity or disapproval, so there's no really no reason to worry about any explicit stuff.
  • I'm pretty sure there isn't any bad language, but if there is, it doesn't go far beyond PG.
  • No drug use.
  • A bit of violence. A chunk of the book is dedicated to a barricade scene during which several people are shot and killed, but it isn't especially gory.
  • Many, MANY deaths, all heart rending. Sob.  
  • Very long and challenging. 
  • Overall, it's suitable for young readers, but anyone that picks it up has to be prepared for the length. The unabridged version is 1,000+ pages, and the Barnes & Noble abridged version that I read was still 829 pages. It's ginormous. 
A Warning...
Except, perhaps, by this:

But the point still remains that it's long and complicated. I'll do my best, but things are going to get pretty general because there's just so much that could be given away...

Though, for the record, that last picture may be the explanation of the musical. Don't care. Still pretty accurate.  

Les Misérables mostly follows the life of Jean Valjean, a man imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed himself and his numerous nieces and nephews and for trying to escape from prison so many times. After finally getting out, Jean is man hardened to the world and unable to see much good in anything. This changes when an old clergyman gladly helps him out, offering no judgment. He even assures the police that the silver candlesticks that Jean swiped from the clergyman's residence were a gift to Jean, allowing the former convict to continue on. This inspires Jean to try and live a better life and be a better man, one a bit more like the generous abbé  Jean goes on to reinvent himself a number of times under many different aliases, but he never seems to find the redemption or forgiveness he wants so much. He does, however, find hope and love that he never imagined in a little orphan girl named Cosette, whom he raises and cares for until she reaches her teenage years and falls in love. 

The Positives

-The whole plot. Yes, it's nearly impossible to neatly sum up, and yes, it seems like a hot mess at times, but--my lord--is it awesome. I can't imagine writing 500 pages that all fit together, let alone twice that! The fact of the matter is that Hugo achieved something amazing with this hefty book that has little to no loose ends. 

-The tragedy of it all. I'm not afraid to admit it: I cried. There was so much depressing stuff going down that I often felt like I was going to be crushed if one little thing didn't go right in the near reading future. The beginning, especially, is absolutely heartbreaking (Fantine, poor, sweet Fantine), but the heartbreak is beautiful. I don't feel that it was ever elevated quite to the point of melodrama (which I find extremely annoying), but instead found it to be believable and all the more soul-crushing for it. 

-Hugo's style. So the man may tend to go off on several tangents (even in the abridged version), but he's still brilliant. He has that special way about his writing that truly engulfs you and makes you either incredibly sad or incredibly happy. Honestly, he can make you cry in like two sentences...and he will. 



-Jean Valjean, AKA: the whole protagonist package. Dynamic, complex, and interesting, I absolutely adored him. He's the type of character that you are rooting for deep down and the kind whose misfortunes will break your heart several times over. It's also quite nice to find a character that you care for and feel bad for, but doesn't spend his time swamped in self-pity--and, believe me, he very well could. 

-The villains. Oh, the wonderfully wicked Thenardiers, so skeezy and plain 'ole bad to the bone. After reading so much more recent books where the bad guy is always more than he or she seems, it was refreshing to find some that you can just hate to your core and not even feel bad about it. 

The Negatives

-Cosette. I liked and pitied little Cosette, but I wasn't such a fan of the older version. I know that Hugo was creating a "pure" character, but that made her quite boring: all chatter, no substance. 

-"This man was Jean Valjean." I stated before that Jean creates several aliases for himself, and this was all good with me. The thing is, every time Hugo chose to reveal that this mysterious character was Jean, he would use the aforementioned sentence, or something of that variety. I found it a little irritating, but this is really just me being nit-picky again. 

Overall

It was excellent! It took me way too long to read, and I unfortunately missed out on being able to see the movie in theaters because of it, but I definitely don't regret picking it up! I would certainly recommend that you add it to your reading list at some point in your life because it's one of those that everyone should read at least once! Enjoy!

**I apologize for the weird formatting going on in this post. I'm trying to fix it, but I'm not too sure what's happening! Wish me luck!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Liebster Blog Award


Oh my gravy, where to even start? 

I'm so surprised pleased that Sarah @ Book-A-Holic nominated me for this award (be sure to check her out)! I've only been blogging since October 2012, so this was a wonderful surprise for me!





Rules of the Liebster Blog Award:


1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)

4. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.


Questions from Sarah
1. Why did you start blogging?
 Well, I currently plan on becoming an editor, and I received some advice from someone that starting a blog is excellent experience and, if well done, will look very good on an application someday. I can't say that my inner narcissist wasn't keen on the idea, either!

2. If you could meet any author alive or dead who would it be and why?
I would want to meet Oscar Wilde, for sure, because he's a bit of an idol of mine. I adore his writing style, and I believe that he honestly had some of he best thoughts on life, and I would love to pick his brain.

3. What is your favorite novel that you were forced to read in school?
Well, as odd as it sounds, I would have to say that Animal Farm by George Orwell was my favorite, though a close second would be Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. 

4. If you could travel to any world from a book which would it be and why?
I would definitely want to go to Hogwarts, or anywhere in that world for that matter because, let's face it, being a wizard would be way cool. 

5. If you could be friends with any book character who would it be?
I would be friends with Sherlock Holmes, without a doubt. Honestly, I'm so jealous of Watson!


6. What is your favorite color?
Purple...and sparkle. 

7. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
My favorite thing about blogging is interacting with my followers and getting to hear (errr....see) their thoughts and feedback. 

8. What is the one thing that bothers you most in books (pet peeve)?
I can't stand when you stumble upon elements in a book that add nothing to the story and were clearly thrown in there by the author to come across as "deep."

9. What was your favorite book of 2012?
My favorite book of 2012 would have to be The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory.

10. Have there been any books that you have read recently that have surprised you? Which ones?
I was surprised in a not-so-good way by The Casual Vacancy written by J.K. Rowling because it wasn't as good as I expected it to be, even though I tried my darndest to not have high expectations.

I was also surprised in an excellent way by And Then There Were None written by Agatha Christie because it was one of the most thrilling reading experiences ever and it truly had me guessing until the very end.

11. Who is your number one book boyfriend?
This is such a hard question! I'm going to have to break the rules a little bit and list a few! I quite love Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice.

Random Facts About Me


1. I love food. If I could have three wishes, I think that one of them would be devoted to being to eat all I want without getting fat. 
2. Half of the words that come out of my mouth tend to be movie or TV quotes.
3. I'm obsessed with Doctor Who, and I often try to convert people to Whovians so that I can have fulfilling geek discussions on it. 
4. Someday, I'd really love to live in the UK for a period of time. I mean, those accents...need I say more?
5. I firmly believe that, deep down, everyone loves Titanic. 
6. If I ever stop loving Disney movies, I want someone to put me out of my misery ASAP.
7. I LOVE the Christmas season!
8. I will watch anything with Leonardo DiCaprio in it because I'm pretty much in love.
9. I wish I could sing, like, so badly. I do anyways, but it would be nice not to break the eardrums of anyone within hearing distance.
10. I crack myself up on a way too regular basis. It's honestly a little worrisome.
11. My ideas of fun are probably quite different from those of many others, but I still love to have it! Life is short!

My Nominees
Crystal @ Hopelovenfaith
Brittany @ Bluegrass Birdie

My Questions


1. Why did you start blogging?
2. What are some things you get a little too geeked up about?
3. What are some of your favorite movies?
4. What do you like to do when you're not blogging?
5. What's your biggest pet peeve?
6. What are some things you like about blogging?
7. If you could gain any ability in the world, what would it be?
8. What fictional character would you like to know in real life? (doesn't have to be from a book)
9. What's the craziest dream that you've ever had?
10. What are some of your favorite books (this is a hard one, I know!)?
11. On a scale of 1-10, how nerdy and/or geeky do you feel that you are?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Finals...blehh.



This is just a quick apology for the extreme lack of posts lately. Hopefully, once my exams are done, I'll be able to find time to finish all of my books and throw some reviews on here again!

Thanks for your patience! I'll be back soon; I promise!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

When Fictional Characters Cause Less Than Fictional Feelings...


We've all been there. You're right in the middle of a good book, thoroughly enjoying what's going down, when suddenly [insert crazy happenstance here]! Before you know it, you're feeling all kinds of feelings that you didn't know you could even feel! You're crying, or laughing, or yelling, or throwing things, or maybe doing all of these things at once. Then, maybe later on, you sit down and seriously ponder what other people do with their lives and if perhaps you should get into that stuff. Then you think, Nahh! and go back to the emotional train wreck-edness. It just happens.

Of course, this kind of thing doesn't happen with every book, and it certainly doesn't happen the same way in every person. I know that when it comes to me, I've been having a tendency to experience this less and less (unfortunately), but that I'm now having this experience while reading Les Misérables. Honestly, I'm not even to page 200 yet, and I already feel like if I have to endure any more misery, I'm gonna burst! I'm looking at you, Fantine. I don't think there's even a number large enough to illustrate how many times I've gasped/yelled/moaned/"poor thing"-ed! Seriously, reading Victor Hugo ruins lives, kids. And don't you forget it.

I can also remember a time when I was reading some book or other, and I was maybe holding a certain electronic device in my hand and checking Pinterest when--suddenly--a character unexpectedly died! I was so shocked that a jolt went through my entire body, and I heard a mysterious thump! against the wall. I then realized that said electronic device had gotten thrown in the midst of my spasm (it was uninjured, don't worry). Reading ruins fragile objects, too, kids.  

As crazy as some of this stuff must sound (especially to non-readers) I think that these experiences and emotional investments are part of what makes reading so amazing. I don't think that I would ever look to books for entertainment if I didn't get so wrapped up in them that they made me laugh or feel all kinds of elation; I don't think I'd look to books if they didn't make me sad or even angry, either. Part of the magic of reading is being able to get so lost in a world that isn't your own that you start to forget that it isn't your own in the first place! It's a truly a beautiful, beautiful thing!

So, what do you think? Do you have some emotional experiences to share about fiction feeling exactly the opposite of that? Please share: I'd be happy to hear about them! (:


Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Epic Showdown: Books vs. eReaders



As you may have noticed, I'm currently reading Song to Wake To by J.D. Field, and, to a little bit of my shame, I'm reading it on a Kindle Fire.

I only got the book in the first place because I had received a message from the author on Goodreads that it was going to be free on Amazon for a couple of days, and I thought to myself, Free book? Seems legit. So,  I borrowed my mother's Kindle Fire and gave it a try...and I'm actually enjoying the experience.

I now present to you the epic showdown that is currently ensuing in my brain (and has probably been seen on the Internet a thousand times before this): Books vs. eReaders

But before you go through it all, I'm gonna have to ask you to prepare yourself to use your best inner announcer voice!

Is it ready? Then read on (:

In the first corner we have the sleek new kids on the block...E-READERSSSSS!!! 

(Specifically, the Kindle Fire.)

Well, there's no way of getting around it: the thing is just flat-out handy in multiple ways.

I love that it tells you what percentage of the book you've read. Sometimes, when I'm reading a real book that I'm having a hard time getting in to, I'm all, Oh look! I've read...12 pages. Crap. However, I can tap the screen on the Kindle, and I'm all, Hey, I've read five percent more of the book! Which makes me feel quite a bit better.

I'm also loving that you can select a word or phrase and either highlight it or note it, eliminating the need to color in the pages of an actual book with a marker, or--God forbid--actually bending the corner of a page in attempt to find that one beautiful passage more easily. You can also choose to look up the definition of a single word, which I find to be extremely useful. I can't tell you how often I run across a word in a book that I'm not too sure about, and I just blow it off, telling myself I'll look up the meaning later, but I hardly ever do. But has that been happening at all on the Kindle? Nope. And it's magnificent.

And, ah, the bookmarking tool. Once you select the book, it will automatically open to whatever page you were last at, so if you always leave off on the last page you read, you're in good luck. If, for whatever reason, you don't always do this, you have the option to bookmark the page. The best part? You can have several bookmarks at once! This provides yet another way to locate a specific part of the book that you may want to look through several times. I can only imagine the possibilities when reading a mystery on the Kindle. Muahaha.

The Kindle is also terribly useful in that it provides one spot for several novels that is roughly the size of a booklet. It's pretty nice to pick up one little device and have access to multiple books instead of having to take a whole stack with you so you can decide what you're going to read in that moment.

Finally, the free books are amazing. When I searched "free books" in the store, I got over 54,000 results! True, these may not always be the highest quality books, there are loads of classics. If you're a classic enthusiast like myself, you'll be in heaven. I bought both The Grimm Fairy Tales and The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in one sitting. I'm psyched.

And in this corner we our beloved veteran, BOOOOOOKSSSS!

Look, it's no secret that books are amazing. Since we've all read physical books before, I won't go into great detail of why they're awesome, but here's a quick list of reasons.

1. There's nothing like being able to feel and smell the pages between your fingers. Nothing.

2. One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is walking out a books store with a little paper bag holding the new books that you just bought.

3. You can't beat that "Awww yeahhh" feeling you get when you pinch together that chunk of pages that you just read all in one sitting as you brag about it to your slow or non-reading friends.

4. They are more easily lent out. It's pretty simple to pull a book from your shelf and hand it over to a friend for a couple of weeks, not so easy to do the same thing with your eReader.

5. You can put them in your shelf and watch your collection swell in positive correlation with your geekish pride.

6. They're mostly durable. You drop your copy of Pride & Prejudice on the concrete? No biggie. Pick it up, dust it off, it's good to go. You drop your eReader on the concrete? Probably not so good to go, unless you have a case.

7. There are probably more reasons that I'm forgetting.

And the winner is...

Books. Duh. 

Look, books may not look quite as fancy, be stored quite as easily, or have all kinds of fancy tools accompanying them, but that doesn't make them inferior. When it comes down to it, holding a book in your hands cannot be replaced by holding an eReader; going to a bookstore will always be more fun than going to Amazon; seeing real books fill the bookshelf in your home will always be more satisfying than them filling the virtual one on your screen.

Physical books are something to hold in your hands and treasure. They are physical embodiments (which the little red underline is telling me is not a word?!) of nostalgia and sentimentality. They can be replaced on a shelf by eReaders, but they can't be replaced in our hearts, and that's why they will always win out.

Holy cheese-fest, Batman.

Anywaaaayyys. Let me hear your thoughts! Do you have some arguments for either side that I forgot to list? Do you agree with me? Disagree with me? Comment and let me know! Thanks!