April Mini-Reviews

Since I am so behind on book reviews, it’s time for mini-reviews! Here are some books I’ve read but have yet to review:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: Along with The Count of Monte Cristo, this book is a Revenge inspired read. The EW recapper floated an Agatha Christie theory [full of spoilers for Revenge and Orient Express] that–even though the show is based on CoMC–maybe the writers are layering in an Orient Express element of revenge as well. I won’t spoil the book, but I liked the idea, so, of course, I had to read Murder on the Orient Express after reading the article.

I think I read this book when I went through an Agatha Christie spell in high school/college because I was not at all surprised by who did it and how. Plus, everything about the book felt really familiar. So it was good, but unsurprising. If you want to read it, I recommend going in cold and trying to figure it out with Hercule Poirot. It’ll be more fun that way.

Also! This book counts for the TV Challenge because there totally used to be a Poirot TV series! I’d call that a win.

TV Addict: 2; Classic Double: .25

Source: Library

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi: A quick read about a girl who boards a ship whose crew members attempt a mutiny. Charlotte is smart and clever. If you think about it too hard, her transformation, as a review on Goodreads says, isn’t well foreshadowed in her character’s background. But I didn’t think about it until after I read that review, so I bought her transformation. Love Charlotte.

Off the Shelf: 3

Source: personal collection

In the end, my hope is that you’ll learn that Angry Management ain’t really where it’s at. When the rage has got ya, it’s got ya. But if you learn to tell your story, an’ tell it loud, your angry won’t get you so often.

Angry Management by Chris Crutcher: You know what’s sad? I totally started a review for this book, but never finished. That is SAD.

Anyway, it’s a collection of three short stories–excuse me, novellas–all based on some of Crutcher’s other works. Really, what Crutcher does is write fanfic of his own novels. Can you do that? Sure, if you cross, say, the world of Sarah Byrnes with that of Angus Bethune, especially when they live nowhere near each other or exist in different times. I mean, Crutcher doesn’t even have to come up with a plausible scenario for these two to meet/live near each other (oh, right, except the frame for all of the stories is that the kids are all in group therapy together, but, except for Sarah/Angus, the stories seem to exist outside of that framing device. I just went with it. Because, really, what else can you do?) but they do! So they become friends. AU fanfic right there. And, let’s face it, we all know that Crutcher is a big fan of his own books. As well he should be.

The three novellas are:

  1. “Kyle Maynard and the Craggy Face of the Moon”: Sarah Byrnes and Angus Bethune (from Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes & Athletic Shorts, respectively)
  2. “Montana Wild”: Montana West and Trey Chase (from a book/books I never read)
  3. “Meet Me at the Gates, Marcus James”: Marcus James, Mr. Simet, Matt Miller (set in the same town as Whale Talk with Mr. Simet from Whale Talk and a kid mentioned briefly in Deadline)

I liked all of the stories, but the third was probably my favorite. Matt Miller is totally literary boyfriend material. I LOVE HIM.

Man, what do you do when you know the truth, when it’s stretched out in front of you, silent?

If you’re Matt Miller, you totally do the right thing. So much love.

POC Reading Challenge: 3

Source: Library

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

Reading Challenges 2012

My brain is so fried from grading that I am currently incapable of posting any reviews. I wish I were joking, but alas. Every time I think of writing a review, my brain just kind of shuts down, like, “Seriously? You want me to think right now? Do you know what I’ve been doing for the past three weeks?” And then I go take a nap.

So! I will post instead about the reading challenges I’m going to do next year.

At first, like Vasilly, I was all, “I’m not doing any challenges. Imma read what I wanna read.” But then I read this post she linked and had an a-ha moment. The issue for me wasn’t signing up for challenges; the issue was the type of challenges I signed up for. I mean, signing up for gimmes isn’t really challenging. Yes, I read almost exclusively YA so why sign up for a YA challenge? Same with the library book challenge, etc. Also, I was lowballing my numbers, which is not really a challenge either.

On the flip side, when I signed up for the Women Unbound challenge, that really pushed me to seek out and read books I might not have otherwise. So, with that in mind, I’m participating in the following challenges:

Off the Shelf: My bookshelves are ridiculously full of books I haven’t read yet. I mean, it’s kind of a problem. I really want to cull my shelves, especially since I’m moving this summer. So that means I’m going to do the Making a Dint level, 30 books.

  1. Fatherhood by Bill Cosby
  2. The Romantic Obsessions & Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier by Louise Plummer
  3. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
  4. Jane by April Lindner
  5. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra
  6. And This Is Laura by Ellen Conford
  7. Now and Zen by Linda Gerber
  8. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
  9. Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

TV Reading Challenge: I love reading books that have been turned into other media, and I’m already planning to read The Count of Monte Cristo (see: Revenge on ABC), and this challenge will finally give me an excuse to read Peyton Place. Normally, I don’t list the books I’m reading in advance, but well, there go two right there. I’m doing the Series level, 3-4 books.

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  2. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Tea & Books Reading Challenge: Since I was already planning on reading CoMC, which is a bazillion pages long, I thought this challenge, which focuses on books with more than 700 pages might be fun. Because I don’t really read long books, I’m going for the Chamomile Lover level, 2 books. Second book TBD, obvs.

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Classic Double Challenge: It’s possible that CoMC might also qualify for this challenge–as long as I can find a corresponding contemporary retelling. Can I just say I had a slight nerdgasm when I saw this challenge? SUCH A NERD. I’ll probably be taking most of my cues from the book From Hinton to Hamlet, but I could be lying. WE’LL SEE. I mean, Melissa has her own pretty comprehensive list up, so I may let that guide me. I’m doing Medium, 4 pairs of related books.

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo/Murder on the Orient Express/”Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”

2012 Audiobook Challenge: I am all about some audiobooks, and this is kind of a gimme, except I’m going to push myself by signing up at the Going Steady level, which is 12 books. This year, I read ~8 books on audiobook, so that’s a good push. One book a month. I think I can handle that.

  1. Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres
  2. Let It Go by T.D. Jakes
  3. Invisible by Pete Hautman
  4. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  5. Jeremy Brown: Secret Agent by Simon Cheshire
  6. Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

And that’s it unless some super sexy challenge comes along in the next week or so. Oh, and the people who run the blog haven’t said whether or not it’s coming back, but I’m all aboard the People Of Color Reading Challenge train if it does. So I’ll just leave this here as a placeholder until it’s official.

And it’s back! I’m doing Level 5, 16-25 books.

  1. Fatherhood by Bill Cosby
  2. No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
  3. Angry Management by Chris Crutcher
  4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  5. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra
  6. Let It Go by T. D. Jakes
  7. Now and Zen by Linda Gerber
  8. Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
  9. Claudia and Mean Janine by Raina Telgemeier
  10. A La Carte by Tanita S. Davis