Bloggiesta 2012: To-Do

I decided to sign-up for Bloggiesta. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get to it, but: let’s be real. I don’t do anything except sit on the couch on Saturdays anyway. To be fair, I am going to a play in about a half-hour, but when I get back, I’m going to get in some quality bloggiesta time.

My planned to-do list:

  • answer comments
  • schedule a post or two
  • update books read in 2012 list
  • decide if I want to keep/update the reviews by author page
  • decide if I want to add a reviews by title page (directly related to previous bullet point)
  • participate in the Pinterest mini-challenge
  • clean up labels/tags/categories
  • read through the other mini-challenge posts (old and new!) and see if something there catches my eye

Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

Yes, but one gets out of prison…and when one gets out and one’s name is Edmond Dantes, one seeks revenge…

It only took me two and half months, but I am DONE! I have totally PWNED The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. YESSSSSSS. It is quite possibly the longest book I have ever read in my entire life, and as someone who studied English in undergrad, completed a master’s program, and is ABD in a Ph.D. program, I have read a lot of really, really, REALLY long books.

The only thing that may come close to my affection for books is television, so you best believe this was a TV-inspired read. And if you have not been watching Revenge AKA my new favorite show AKA the show inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo, then you have been missing all the way out.

Written a gabillion years ago (or in the 1800s, if you care to nitpick), The Count of Monte Cristo is about Edmond Dantès, a man wrongfully imprisoned on treason charges for a really effing long time. He gets out, strikes it rich, and then seeks REVEEEEEEEENGE on those who did him wrong. And, oh, they did him so wrong. Edmond! They did you so wrong.

Dantes had entered the Chateau d’If with the round, open, smiling face of a young and happy man, with whom the early paths of life have been smooth, and who anticipates a future corresponding with his past. This was now all changed.

What I Liked

1. The revenge plot. I mean, obviously, the driving force of the narrative is Edmond’s need for revenge, and after seeing how wrong Danglers, Villefort, and Fernand did him, WELL, to say I wanted those fools to go down is not an understatement. They did him so wrong. Sooooo wrong. Poor, sweet, innocent, wrongly accused Edmond.

I also like that the plot is not carried out as smoothly as Edmond would like. There are quite a few innocent people hurt by his vengeance, which makes sense. No matter how well thought-out his plots are (and they are), people are involved and we all know how they can screw things up. I mean, Villefort’s family! Wow.

That said, Edmond is a little nutty. Remember when Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction quotes the vengeance verse from the Bible and then kills that dude? Yeah, that’s Edmond’s attitude. He ascribes his revenge to Providence (until he screws up) and thinks of himself as God’s avenging angel. Edmond! Just own that you’re pissed and doing it for yourself, dude!

“But I, betrayed, sacrificed, buried, have risen from my tomb, by the grace of God, to punish that man.”

Edmond sure does know how to keep his hands clean, though. Nothing he does can be attributed back to him, he’s often out of town when everything hits the fan, AND he is a master manipulator. You know why? Because when he was in jail, he had nothing to do but sit, think, read, and plot. Whew.

Misfortune is needed to bring to light the treasure of the human intellect.

2. All the awesometastic, badass characters–several of which are FEMALE (WHAT). In no particular order, I really dug:

  • Abbé Faria
  • Mercédès (in the later chapters)
  • Eugénie
  • Albert
Huh, that list is shorter than I expected. Whatever, the point is I liked a lot of the characters. I mean, I loved the Abbé, Mercédès totally redeemed herself after waiting less than a year to marry someone else, Eugénie’s defiance of her family is OUTSTANDING, and Albert fell asleep after he got kidnapped and was waiting to die.

3. Grandpa Noirtier. Okay, this character gets his own number because he is the most badass of all the grandpas. Let me tell you how amazing this man is:

He had a stroke which rendered him paralyzed from the neck down and mute and HE STILL RUNS EVERYTHING. This man blinks and things get done. Things like stopping marriages, killing people, shaming his son, saving his granddaughter’s life. THOSE KINDS OF THINGS. From a wheelchair. When he can’t even speak.

“But to do this he must have spoken?”

“He has done better than that—he has made himself understood.”

I’m sorry, but you wish you were as badass as Grandpa Noirtier. I know I do.

4. SHAWSHANK! Which, btw, I am going to use for the Classic Double challenge since as soon as Faria and Edmond started communicating, that’s exactly what I yelled at the page.

5. It’s hinted at that one of the characters is gay, and I thought Dumas was going to keep it as subtext, but nope. He totally went ALL THE WAY there. Good show, sir. Absolutely no doubt at the end of the story that the character was gay, and all the fanfic can be written without having to justify it by stating subtext. BECAUSE IT’S TEXT.

6. Basically all of the female characters become ovaries-out amazing by the end–whether they were good or bad. Loved that.

What I Didn’t Like

1. The book is too long. Now you may be thinking, “Akilah, it’s an 1100 to 1300-page book (depending on which version you get; my Nook had it at ~1100 pages; Goodreads has it as ~1300). That automatically makes it too long.” But you’d be wrong. The beginning of the book zips along at quite a fast clip. From the set up to the betrayal to the arrest to the long, long time in jail to the freeeeeeeeedom to the striking it rich. All of that is super fast. And then the third act gets all juicy again and zip, zip, zip.

But Italy. Italy is soooooooo slow and sooooooooo boring. I think I put the book down for a little while during Italy because I just didn’t see the point. And then I picked it back up and had to skim to get through it. And do you know how long Italy goes on? Like, 300 pages. That is a lot of pages for boring is what I’m saying.

Also, it’s such an abrupt slow down and really destroys the momentum of the book. Yes, some of the stuff we learn there comes into play later (more specifically: the introduction of Edmond as The Count and the introduction of Franz, Albert, and some other characters who mean something to the plot), but it does not have to be (a) that detailed or (b) that boring. The only explanation I can come up with for how/why it’s even in the book is that people back in Dumas’s day didn’t have TV (or even radio) so they could read really long books like that without thinking of, you know, watching the movie instead. That’s the only thing I can think of.

2. I couldn’t keep the characters straight. No lie, I totally had to refer to SparkNotes at one point because I couldn’t remember who was who. Sometimes Dumas refers to them by their first names, sometimes by their titles, sometimes by their last names. Oh, and of course, if there’s a son and a father, they tend to share the same last name–same with the mothers and daughters.

Again, that may have been fine way back in the 1800s, but we don’t really do that in the 21st century.

In conclusion: Totally worth it! Except for that one really slow part in the middle (which made me hate Franz, btw, since he was the POV character at that point) the book is totally satisfying with lots of drama and great plot stuff.

Oh, and if anyone else is doing the Classic Double challenge, this book pairs nicely with a few stories from the 1001/Arabian Nights (as the classic!) since lots of Edmond’s monikers/adventures are inspired by those short stories–specifically Ali Baba, Aladdin, and Sinbad the Sailor. I have the collection on my shelf and plan on reading those…someday.

Also, this book is perfect for an e-reader because, omg, the copy at the library was a gabillion pages long and had itty, bitty tiny text. Although, I guess I could’ve used that print version to do bicep curls. Oh well.

TV Addict: 1; Tea & Books: 1; Classic Double: .5; POC Challenge: 3

Source: Project Gutenberg

Book Review: Jane

To expend some of my energy, I wandered the grounds and saw, for the first time, the wreck of the chestnut tree. It was black and split down the center. The two halves clung to each other, the firm base and strong roots keeping them upright. But the tree was clearly dead; one good storm would knock it over. For now, though, they formed one tree — a ruin, but an entire ruin.

I read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre three times between high school and undergrad. THREE. Not because I wanted to, but because it was required reading. Truthfully, though, I much preferred it to Wuthering Heights, so, you take what you can get.

The point is: when I found out that April Lindner wrote Jane, a retelling of Jane Eyre, (nerd alert!) I was immediately intrigued. The premise is relatively simple: What if Jane Eyre fell in love with a rock star?

Lindner obviously respects the original novel. She makes sure to hit all the major points of the book (even managing to get in a nod at the red room). Jane is still an orphan, still all alone in the world, still detached and removed. And, of course, Jane still manages to fall for Mr. Rathburn, her much older and experienced employer.

Ultimately, though, the downfall of the novel is how little Lindner is willing to play with the narrative. Reading Jane felt JUST LIKE reading Jane Eyre, in terms of plot and tone. In any retelling, I expect the author to hit on the major points of the narrative, but I do not want to feel like I might as well be reading the original — which is how I felt reading Jane. Although, to be fair, Lindner’s Jane feels slightly less plucky than Brontë’s.

I really wanted to like this book, but somewhere around the middle, I found myself reading just to see it through to the end. (I did, after all, need to find out if Lindner ended with “Reader, I married him.”)

I admire Lindner’s ambitious undertaking. Jane Eyre is freaking long and not entirely conducive to modernity, which is why I was excited to see a retelling of it. I just wish Lindner had been a little less faithful to the original by playing around with the narrative and the characters.

I feel like by saying that I should give some examples of retellings that do what I’m talking about, so:

  • The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
  • Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (movie), a retelling of Sleeping Beauty
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, retelling of Cinderella
  • Bride and Prejudice (movie), retelling of Pride & Prejudice
  • Wuthering High and the Bard Academy novels by Cara Lockwood, retelling of Wuthering Heights and many other classics

What are some other successful retellings that play around with the originals? Let me know in the comments!

Off the shelf: 3/30