Challenges

Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Journey to the center of the earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, Kindle Edition, Dover,  1864, 240p.

3 stars.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is the first of Verne’s works that I’ve read, and although I enjoyed it, I won’t be running out to pick up another. I think because the ‘science’ that is used in this book is now so laughable, it doesn’t have that element of reality that I like in sci-fi or adventure novels.

There are plenty of things that I really enjoyed about Journey to the Center of the Earth, like all the talk of volcanoes. When I was younger, I was adamant on becoming a volcanologist. Sometimes to this day I regret the adults in child-me’s life for dissuading that career path. Yeah I know there’s no volcanoes in Australia. Do I care? Nope. It would have meant I got to travel. Anyway, I digress.

Journey takes the traditional adventure novel and pairs it with science fiction. The plot is essentially finding a way to the center of the earth, and then the journey to get there. What’s annoying is that the adventure is told in a narrative style, as having happened in the past. It leads to much of the story being told, not shown. There is little description, and hardly any build up to the thrilling parts. It’s not scary when you are told there was a rock slide – you need to have that rock slide described to you through illuminating words and description of what is actually happening to the characters. I suppose that means I’m not a big fan of Verne’s style in Journey, and I have a feeling that he continued in this same way in his other novels.

The characters were interesting, if a little sketchy. We had Professor Lidenbrock who I sometimes liked and other times loathed, and his nephew, the orphan Axel, who was the narrator for this story. I mostly hated Axel, I don’t like reading about cowardice in adventure novels, and Axel generally needed to be goaded into action and saved every twenty pages or so. Hans was my favourite character, but that could be because we know nothing about him. He was quite two dimensional, and I wanted to know more about him but was left hanging.

The ending was completely unbelievable, but the setting is somewhere I used to beg my Mum and Dad to take me during school holidays. They always said no. For good reason.

Overall, Journey to the Center of the Earth was not a complete waste of time to read, but it’s certainly not one of my favourite books. I’d advise fans of adventure and sci-fi novels give Journey a read, if only to see where their favoured genres have taken Verne’s work and made it their own.

#20booksofsummer (in winter) Challenge

20 books of summer

The 20 Books of Summer challenge is being hosted by Cathy over at 746 Books. Check out her blog, and join in if you so wish! I’m a little late to this party, but I’ve been undecided about what books I’m going to commit to. As always, these choices might get changed as I go, but I’m going to try and stick to this list as much as possible.

I’ve selected 10 books from my Classics Club list – in an attempt at making a serious dent in that challenge too. It means that quite a few of my books won’t be ‘easy’ reading, but I find I read more classics in winter anyway.

I’ve also made sure 10 of the books are by female authors (and I almost had 9, plus Evelyn Waugh! Oooops.) I’m trying to balance out the male/female issue I have, but then it just pained me to notice my Classics Club list is a sausage fest.

Anyway, onto the list.

# Title Author Pages Y.O.P M/F
1 Deathlist Chris Ryan 309 2016 M
2 The Innocents Ace Atkins 384 2016 M
3 This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen Tadeusz Borowski 278 2015 M
4 White Fang Jack London 155 1906 M
5 Blackout Chris Ryan 432 2006 M
6 A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess 141 1962 M
7 Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne 630 1759 M
8 State of Emergency Andy McNab 350 2015 M
9 Fire Point Sean Black 424 2014 M
10 The Edge of Alone Sean Black 269 2016 M
11 Iron Lake William Kent Krueger 330 1998 M
12 Brave New World Aldous Huxley 268 1931 M
13 The House of Mirth Edith Wharton 416 1905 F
14 Dark Forces Stephen Leather 432 2016 M
15 Ghost Sniper Scott McEwen 416 2016 M
16 The Awakening Kate Chopin 195 1899 F
17 The Fighting Season Bram Connolly 336 2016 M
18 Journey to the Center of the Earth Jules Verne 240 1864 M
19 Bad Soldier Chris Ryan 375 2016 M
20 The Pigeon Patrick Suskind 77 1988 M

It is in no particular order, and includes 8 books off my shelves that I haven’t gotten to yet (hello Read My Books challenge), and a couple new releases I’m looking forward to during winter. Also included Tristram Shandy, my Classics Club spin, and Middlemarch for the Eliot-Along (which you should all join, btw. Details here.)

Extra brownie points will be awarded if I can manage to review them all.

Anyone else participating? Did you theme/restrict your lists like I did? Anyone else freaking out about all the guys hanging out on their Classics TBR lists?

The Classics Club Spin #13

It’s time for yet another Classics Club Spin – and although I didn’t finish the last one, I’m going to jump ahead and get myself a new spin book so I don’t have to keep staring at Dracula. I’ve thrown in a couple choices that mean I can read with someone else, but if you see we have a book in common, let me know and I’ll juggle around my list so we can read together, if you like!

Onto the list:

  1. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  2. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  3. Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
  4. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  5. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  6. The Plague – Albert Camus
  7. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  8. White Fang – Jack London
  9. Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper
  10. The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
  11. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  12. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  13. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  15. Tristram Shandy – Laurence Sterne
  16. Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne
  17. Night and Day – Virginia Woolf
  18. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
  19. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
  20. The Absentee – Maria Edgeworth

Update: I’ll be reading Tristram Shandy.

 

Classics Club Spin #12

So, I’m going to do a very belated Classics Club spin – I haven’t peeked at the number yet, so I’m just going to run with a slightly altered list from the last spin, just emitting a couple of the hardest books (no way I can commit during this time) and dropping off the one I have read.

  1. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  2. Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper
  3. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
  4. White Fang – Jack London
  5. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – Laurence Sterne
  6. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  7. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen – Borowski
  8. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  9. What Maisie Knew – Henry James
  10. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  11. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  12. Night and Day – Virginia Woolf
  13. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  14. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  15. The Plague – Albert Camus
  16. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  17. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  18. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  19. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  20. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Ranty Roundup – February

So… It’s 9 days into March, and here I am, posting my summary for the previous month! Ha. I’ve got an extremely busy few months ahead of me, and I probably won’t be too active on the blog until May, but I will continue to abuse the service that is twitter, follow me @bookybecksa and I’ll follow back.

I only read two books in March, The Innocent by Sean Black and Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. I can’t choose a favourite because I loved BOTH! I’ll be posting a review of Agnes in the next week or so, hopefully. It’s on my Classics Club Challenge list, so I really do need to review.

February was also the month of the #BBAW, which I loved participating in! I just wish I had more time/energy/resources/foresight to actually participate more. It was a great community event, and I really do hope that the organizers make it happen again next year. I met many new blogging friends and followed SO many new people on twitter who are constantly opening my reading horizons.

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I also attempted to start reading Ulysses – but then realised that reading such a challenging book (I could only tackle it in five minute moments before I would get frustrated) during uni semester is probably not the best idea.

March is going to be focused primarily on fun, genre reads. I am going to lowkey participate in the #slaythatseries which runs from March 13 – March 20. I’ll post a TBR for that readathon a day or two before it hits us!

Like usual, I will tackle a classic this month – I missed the official pick for the classics club spin, but as I have not seen which number won, I will post my list today and then check out what spun up. A little naughty, but the classics club spin is one of my favourite bookish events, so I don’t wanna miss out!


Books Read in February – 2

Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte – 4 stars
The Innocent – Sean Black – 4 stars.


Book Reviews in February

None! (such a naughty book reviewer!)


Challenge progress

Read my Books Challenge

Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte

1 book read in February / 2 in 2016

Classic a Month Challenge & Classics Club

Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte – Review to come

Series a Month

Did not participate in Series a month during February.


March TBR

One Hit – Jack Coughlin and Donald A. Davis
Promise – Tony Cavanaugh
Fire Point – Sean Black
State of Emergency – Andy McNab
Off the Grid – C.J. Box
First Response – Stephen Leather
Classic for the classics club

My Goal for the month will be to read 5-6 books.

Ranty Roundup – January

January was a strange reading month for me – it started off so strong, but then there was a period of about 14 days that I didn’t read anything. Not a single page. The month started off with a very successful Bout of Books readathon, in which I hosted a challenge and did a significant amount of reading. You can read my wrap of of that here.

A friend and I then drove to South Gippsland in Victoria (about a 13 hour drive) to go to a music festival. It was a camping festival and we did quite a bit of drinking and meeting new and wonderful people. We saw some of our favourite bands, like Parkway Drive, Stray from the Path, Confession and Neck Deep. Needless to say, I didn’t get to read a single word. Normally I would read while my friend drove, but I did most of the driving and we talked so much. It was just so nice to be able to have a pressure free weekend and be able to catch up with a good friend.

Anyway, onto more bookish things – my favourite book of January was without doubt Dispatches by Michael Herr. It was my classics club spin, and I had DNF’d it a couple of years ago when I just wasn’t in the mood for nonfic. It just shows that I am such a mood reader that something I DNF’d could then become a favourite after a couple of years. My other reads for the month were not spectacular, and I was quite disappointed with Dead Wake by Erik Larson, because I had such high hopes and expectations.

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Books read in January – 7

Birthdays for the Dead – Stuart MacBride – 3 stars

Dead Wake – Erik Larson – 3 stars

The Devil’s Bounty – Sean Black – 3 stars

The Business of Dying – Simon Kernick – 4 stars

A Good Day to Die – Simon Kernick – 3 stars

Dispatches – Michael Herr – 5 stars

The Payback – Simon Kernick – 3 stars


 

Book Reviews

Dead Wake – Larson

In The Cold Dark Ground – MacBride

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

Dispatches – Herr

Review Spree – Lynn, Black & Kava


 

 

Challenge progress

Read my Books Challenge

The Business of Dying by Simon Kernick

1 book read in January / 1 in 2016

Classic a Month Challenge & Classics Club

Dispatches by Michael Herr – Reviewed

Series a Month

Dennis Milne series by Simon Kernick – read 3/3 books.


 

February TBR

 

I’m not going to try and complete a series in February, rather I am going to focus on my steadily growing netgalley pile and clear my backlog. Currently I have 5 on my shelf that need to be read. My goal will be to read 4 of them at least.

I’ve also got quite a few books from the library that need attention, plus my monthly classic. So the following is my tentative TBR for Feb – however I’m not really expecting to read this whole list – maybe five or six from this list.

The Martian – Andy Weir

The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman

The Innocent – Sean Black

One Hit – Jack Coughlin

The Wrecking Crew – Taylor Zajonc

Youngblood – Matt Gallagher

Islamism – Tarek Osman

Red Line – Brian Thiem

Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte

I am so so excited that I am hosting a readathon for Agnes Grey, it’s the first time I have ever hosted one, so I am so grateful to have people to share this experience with. If you want to be involved, feel free to sign up – it’s still early days!

Agnes Grey Readalong

Review: Dispatches by Michael Herr

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Dispatches by Michael Herr, Picador Classics Paperback, 1977, p. 272.

5 stars.

It is really tough to review those books that touch you on such a deep level, change your thinking regarding a topic and leave you a different person. I read a lot of war and military themed fiction and non-fiction, and consider myself not an expert, but an enthusiast in this field. I had become jaded – since reading Matterhorn a couple of years ago, no war novel (covering a real life war) had come close to romancing me – and no non-fiction about war was as engaging anymore. Until I picked up Dispatches. It was a Classics Club Spin – and it just proves that sometimes you need a little encouragement to read books that might become favourites in the future.

I will try to offer my opinions and impressions of this book, but I can assure you that they will be childish, trivial and kitsch in comparison to the actual work reviewed. Dispatches starts with a chapter entitled “Breathing In” and as I started reading it I thought it was about literally breathing in the air in Vietnam. Herr uses the senses in exquisite ways to convey the story, and I just thought the chapter was alluding to that. Once I realised the final chapter was entitled “Breathing Out” I became sure that these chapters were in reference to death, and the writers’ brush with death and his survival. Dispatches talks about death in a unique fashion, treating it as a gruesome reality that is viewed by some as a spectator sport. It was only when I sat back and thought more about the book and the final chapter that it became clear that Herr was talking about things on a much grander scale, a much deeper scale, then I could fully appreciate.

The book holds its breath from the first page to the last – and it reflects the way that Herr sees his time in Vietnam.

He held his breath, and he ceased to exist outside of Vietnam, his time in the war there meant he had lived two different and completely disparate lives – the life ‘back home’ and the time in country, when he was holding his breath.

I also think it is in homage to the fact that the young men who were over in Vietnam stopped living as soon as they were in Vietnam, to the Americans at home they were fighting an unpopular war and were almost invisible – and soldiers deaths were often under-reported. They stopped living in the minds of their commanding officers, the brass and the politicians – they became bodies to be utilised in a grand-scale and ultimately doomed chess game. Most horrifying of all however, is that they stopped living in their own minds – Vietnam came to consume them, and for so many, death or serious injury was a welcome vacation away from their horrible reality, Herr describes more soldiers dealing with insanity and mental illness than soldiers processing their time healthily. Because in reality, how can you process a war such as Vietnam healthily?

Dispatches is not written from memories of a soldier’s time, Herr was a war correspondent who was sent to Vietnam for Esquire magazine. The soldiers don’t understand why he is there (he chose to be there, they were ordered), and it seems that the other correspondents working for the larger papers look down at him for writing for a ‘lesser’ publication. I just think that there is such an element of irony to Dispatches that most people won’t ever read those news reports sent back to the states (unless one is a historian, really) but Michael Herr’s novel is rightfully considered a classic and will be read by many generations in the future.

The introduction to this book, which I read after reading the book itself, is enlightening. Kevin Powers was a serving soldier in the U.S. Army when he read Dispatches in Iraq and while reading his very harrowing introduction, one his passages made clear to me why Dispatches is such a hard hitting book:

“What readers of Dispatches have is meaningful reportage about death. It is in my estimation the most lucid, resolute, and compassionate writing to have ever been done on the subject. It sets aside every manner of illusory thinking that would distract us as readers from the fact that war is in the simplest terms an industry of which death is the sole product.” p. ix

Dispatches is one of the best books about war I have ever read. (And I’ve read dozens, maybe even hundreds) It’s a firm favourite for me, and I will certainly be revisiting it in the future.

Review: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

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Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, Wordsworth edition paperback, 1911, 117p.

4 stars.

I picked up this Wharton in the wrong season – sweltering through a series of 40C days in Australia while the cast of characters in Ethan Frome were freezing through snow and a general feeling of melancholy.

Ethan Frome is the first book by Edith Wharton that I have read, and I fell in love with the setting and the style of this novel. It is a great book that can transport you so fully to another place that you start to shiver – while sitting outside sweating buckets.

I felt like we got to experience the misery of these characters in step with the narrator, and I was as excited to get to the bottom of the story as he was. Ethan Frome, the titular character, is so delightfully enigmatic that unraveling the layers seems difficult at times, but overall rewarding.

I would be remiss to review this classic without mentioning the way that Wharton excels at creating isolation, depression and ruin through her style and setting. The setting gives away quite early in the book that there would be no happy ending, and to be perfectly honest, I would have been annoyed and angry if the author had tacked on a happy ending.

Characters in Ethan Frome are permitted to love, to have deep passions – but these are always curbed by society or nature – and that is a wonderful thing to read, in a dark depressing way.

I felt like I could have enjoyed Ethan Frome more if it was fleshed out into a fleshier novel, the novella length generally doesn’t satisfy me when there is so much potential for a good story.

I will pick up more works by Wharton in the future, and most likely will venture into Ethan Frome at a later date for a deeper, more critical reading.

The Revised Classics Club List

So, I have been looking at my old Classics Club List and come to the startling realisation that I will never achieve those goals! I also have neglected to review so many of the books I have read for the challenge. So here I am with a fresh shiny new Classics Club List. I’ve cut my list from 100 to 50. This time I am going to review all the books I read, and tag them separately so I can track my progress by how many reviews I have completed.

My goal completion date is 31st December, 2020. This is so far in the future, but I think I’m going to need the time! Anyway, onto the list!

  1. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
  2. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
  3. The House of Mirth – Edith WhartonReview
  4. The Secret Agent – Joseph ConradReview
  5. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
  6. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  7. Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper
  8. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo
  10. Agnes Grey – Anne BronteReview
  11. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  12. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  13. Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Jules VerneReview
  14. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  15. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  16. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – Laurence Sterne – Review
  17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  18. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  19. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  20. What Maisie Knew – Henry James
  21. The Awakening – Kate ChopinReview
  22. Heart of Darkness – Joseph ConradReview
  23. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton Review
  24. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  25. Night and Day – Virginia Woolf
  26. The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
  27. The Pigeon – Patrick Suskind
  28. Vile Bodies – Evelyn WaughReview
  29. North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
  30. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  31. The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
  32. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
  33. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  34. The Scarlett Plague – Jack LondonReview
  35. White Fang – Jack London
  36. Out of Africa – Isak Dineson
  37. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  38. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  39. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen – BorowskiReview
  40. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  41. Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
  42. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  43. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  44. My Brilliant Career – Miles FranklinReview
  45. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  46. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  47. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  48. Generals Die in Bed – Charles Yale Harrison
  49. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  50. Dispatches – Michael HerrReview

Has anyone else had to revise their lists or cut them down so drastically?

#12forXmas Halfway/Progress Post

SOUP & SALAD

I have decided to do a little update on how #12forXmas is going, I was really worried about my progress, but now that I’ve thought about it, I’m actually right on track. I’ve got lots of reading time tonight and tomorrow night and I’m sitting where I should be.

I have to be mindful that over the Christmas period everything gets a bit crazy, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that I’m going to reach my crazy goal!

The books I have read so far are;

The Redeemers – Ace Atkins – 370p
22 Dead Little Bodies – Stuart MacBride – 150p
Silent Creed – Alex Kava – 336p
Revenge! – Charles Whiting – 170p
Ice Force – Matt Lynn – 460p
Murder Team – Chris Ryan – 106p
Kingdom of the Strong – Tony Cavanaugh – 368p

7 Books, 1960p

Most of my books have been three star reads, with a couple four stars thrown in. I’ve been alternating a long book with a short one – and I am about to read my first classic for the month – The Scarlet Plague by Jack London.

Anyone have any sneaky strategies for reading lots of books over the xmas period? I’m thinking maybe putting a page from a novel in everyone’s Xmas crackers and making them read that out at the table – maybe a book of poetry!? My family would HATE that. Haha.