Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review- The Hunchback of Notre Dame

My familiarity with this story before reading it was narrowed down to my one viewing of the Disney movie, which I knew probably would be far off from the original story, and reading the back of a film version of it that my Dad had. Neither were accurate representations unfortunately.
So here's the Goodreads synopsis and then let's get to my thoughts!
In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmerelda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destroy her that only Quasimodo can prevent. Victor Hugo's sensational, evocative novel brings life to the medieval Paris he loved, and mourns its passing in one of the greatest historical romances of the nineteenth century.
So basically it's a love story? There's a question mark there because I thought of it more as a lust story. Everyone is lusting after Esmeralda... except Quasimodo... which I suppose was their point in saying it was a love story... but still, I envision it as more of a lust story. Your thoughts?
Anyways, here's my thoughts on the characters, since it really is very much a character driven story.

Quasimodo

This was really the only character I liked in the story. You feel sorry for him and sometimes empathize with him. I think we've all experienced rejection at some level. He gives of himself selflessly without any hope of getting anything in return. There's not really anything negative to say about him. 

Pierre Gringoire

Kind of a good character but kind of annoying but really just in the books for comic relief and it works. He comes into the story as the author of a play that is to be performed (but never is) and that whole situation is rather funny. However, more importantly he comes into the story when he gets captured by the gypsies after accidentally stumbling into their camp and when he is about to be killed Esmeralda rescues him out of pity by agreeing to marry him. However, their "marriage" is unconsummated as (see below) Esmeralda is sworn to virginity. Gringoire then floats through story making smile and lending himself to the plot of the story at odd moments. 
I love this dialogue and it really sums up the character: 
(Frollo trying to convince Gringoire to help rescue Esmeralda) "What then? Why, she will go into your clothes and you will remain in hers. You may get hanged, perhaps, but she will be saved."
Gringoire scratched his ear with a very serious air. "Well," said he, "There is an idea that would never have come into my head of itself."
(Frollo) "Well, Gringoire, What say you to the plan?"
"I say master that I shall not be hanged perhaps, but that I shall be hanged indubitably."

Esmeralda

Esmeralda was a likable character too and technically one of the other "good characters" in the story. However often times I found her petulant and entirely caught up over Phoebus and in denial about his true nature. She didn't always treat Quasimodo well though he tried his best help her. However, over all I found her to be kind and considerate. I must say that when I read the book I was shocked by her character. Not because she was bad obviously but because I thought she was bad. In the Disney movie she does do some rather "lewd dancing" and on the back of the live action film that my Dad has it says she was arrested for "lewd dancing"... which was NOT the case. Yes, she is a gypsy dancer and you really don't know what kind of dancing she was doing and it probably wasn't the best but that really wasn't the point. When you read the book you realize that she is a virgin, though I would say for the wrong reasons, and while she may be somewhat of a flirt she is not a loose woman (read the book to understand the reasons cause they're to complicated to explain here). However, when it came to Phoebus, it could have ended up very differently. Which leads me to... 

Phoebus

I can't decide who I despise more... Frollo or Phoebus. Phoebus is a captain of the guard who is basically a womanizer and Esmeralda is to be one of his conquests and she would have had him be on of his conquests out of ridiculous love for him if circumstances hadn't happened (sorry no spoilers on that part!). One of the last lines of the book and the last note about him, makes me smile: SPOILERS Phoebus de Chateaupers also came to a tragical end: he married. END SPOILERS.

Frollo

I leave the worst and most complicated for last. I say complicated though and I'm not sure. How complicated is Frollo's lust for Esmeralda? Basically, it was sin, and basically Frollo should not have been a priest. I can't feel sorry for Frollo but instead I'm disgusted and creeped out by him. One of the few parts I like of the Disney movie is the song The Bells of Notre Dame and the line "Who is the monster and who is the man?" in respect to Frollo and Quasimodo. That is the real question of the story.

Now on past the characters! 

Of course there is more to a story than the characters and it was the more to the story that oftentimes made me unhappy with it. Besides snippets here and there, the first half of the story is basically long description about Notre Dame and Paris that is absolutely unnecessary to the story. After an incredibly long and detailed description of Paris, Hugo writes, As we constructed it in the reader's mind the general image of old Paris; we will recapitulate in a few words. A few words? Really? What followed was not a few words but I must say I wish I had had just those "few words" instead of the longer description that followed before it.
The first half though was great as the story actually got rolling. Les Mis was similar in that way with the unnecessary tangents and discussions as I recall but again it was a good book too. Hugo is a great writer but he just needed an editor.
Overall a good and interesting book. :)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

Ten? Only Ten? Ahhhhhh!!!! I told you that this list was coming!
I guess I'll have to try my best to chose out of sixty pretty much all great books to come up with the top ten. I'll have you know though it's torture! To ease the torture I'm grouping some of them by author. I also didn't include any re-reads in this list though I did re-read some spectacular books this year. Links will take you to my review of the book, if I wrote one. However, basically I loved all of these books and would highly recommend them to all. :)
  1. The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien- As you probably know I love Tolkien and especially LOTR. While Silmarillion was good, I didn't enjoy it as much. The Children of Húrin though was an amazing in-between. It mixed the mythology of the Silmarillion with the faster paced LOTR to produce another great Tolkien work. If you're a Tolkien fan I highly recommend it... if you aren't... uh... get on to that now! ;)
  2. Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card- Some of my first science fiction reading and I really enjoyed these two. The plots were exciting and surprising the whole way through and even though Ender's Shadow was a parallel novel it still continued to put in twists you didn't see coming. Overall I enjoyed it more but they were both great. 
  3. Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara - I've been a big fan of Killer Angels since I read it back in high school and I loved Gods and Generals almost as much. This historical novel covering the War between the States really brings to life the men and the events surrounding the war and what lead up to it. It is a heartbreaking book as you see men making decisions that they never thought they would have to make and choosing sides apart from their friends. If you love history, you'll love this book. 
  4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell- I've watched the mini-series multiple times and the book is just as great. There are subtle differences that I think make the book better but they're both great. This book has similar themes to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, though of course not topping that masterpiece. 
  5. Little Dorritt and Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens- I loved both of these books so much that I couldn't chose a favorite out of the two. Dickens always creates such memorable characters and stories and these two books are no exception. There's a great mini-series made in 2008 that I've watched of Little Dorrit  that I would highly recommend. There's also a mini-series made of Our Mutual Friend (1998) that has come highly recommended but I haven't seen it yet (hopefully soon now that I have time over the break!). 
  6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett- The character and injustice are what makes this story so amazing and memorable. I was very pleasantly surprised by this story. The movie is good too. 
  7. The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde- I didn't know what to expect going into this story but it definitely caught me off my guard. The story is dark and different, especially for the time period it was written in. 
  8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding- Apparently I was the only one who didn't know the plot line going into this story. By the time I was halfway through though I was figuring it out. This story depicts the depravity of man in a very real, harsh and unexpected way. Great book! 
  9. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz- My Dad and Mom have talked about their love of Dean Koontz's books and especially this series for a long time and after reading a couple others of his books I took the plunge and read this one. I loved it! This book was continually surprising with fun and interesting characters. Koontz's writing is witty and kept me engaged the whole way through. I know there is a movie and I just haven't gotten around to watching it yet but my Dad recommended it so I'm sure it's good. :)
  10. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen- One of the non-fiction books I read this year. It was written over 90 years ago but is still incredibly relevant to this day. It gave me a much better basis for understanding Christianity and politics. I would highly, HIGHLY recommend this book. It made me think probably a lot more than I wanted too. 
Linking up with Broke and Bookish 

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Bout of Books #2- Sign up Post!!!!!

I had tons of fun with my first Bout of Books back at the beginning of the school year and I'm excited to do another one (and hopefully do better on it). ;)
Here's the official blurb of rules. :)
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
 I'm glad that this one runs at a more convenient time for me and it should encourage me to kick off my reading year with a bang!

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's Monday and the Finals are Over!

I didn't write last week due to the stress of finals and the passing of my grandfather, which you can read about here. However, I'm back at it today with what I'm reading! :) I must say I am excited to be done with finals with time freed up for reading and of course finishing up Stargate: Atlantis. ;)

Finished this week

  • Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Currently Reading

  • Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton

Coming Soon

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I was so excited to finish up Hunchback, which was quite an interesting book and get on to the last book I "have" to read this year (for a reading challenge) Here I Stand. We're so close to 2015 and a fresh year of reading and reading challenges and I am just a little exhilarated!
If you haven't already be sure to check out my Birthday Month Reading Challenge and my Hard Core Re-Reading Challenge.
Have a great week! :)

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Final Thoughts

The last couple weeks have been more harrowing then I would have imagined just a month ago. At that time I was freaking out about one more test and then a final and wondering how on earth I was going to survive sanely through the craze. Right before Thanksgiving break though, everything changed. My grandfather, who for many years has struggled with Parkinson's disease, was pronounced unable to swallow after having struggle with swallowing for some time. The family made the decision to put him on Hospice. Almost every day my family and I were there with him at the nursing home. We worked on our school as best we could, watching and waiting. Though he was unresponsive, we talked to him and hugged him, not wanting him to die alone. My last test came on a Friday and afterwards I went as always to his bedside and began studying for my final. I could tell as soon as I came in that his breathing was worse and when the Hospice nurse came in she confirmed my fears. Her guess was that he would not make it through the night. When my grandmother was wheeled in to his bedside she put her hand on his chest as the pastor told him that she was there. My grandpa opened his eyes for the last time. His breathing continued though and those of us that were in there kept talking. A few minutes later it was the pastor that noticed that he had stopped breathing. A nurse confirmed it. My grandfather had went to be with his Savior. The tears came and the work began. As those around me began preparations for the funeral I buried myself in my studies for my final. I was incredibly blessed by those around me who gave me every opportunity to study admit the chaos. One of my nursing school friends let me come over to her house to study so I wouldn't be distracted by the multiplying family members at my house. My cousin took the time to quiz me over countless questions the evening before and the morning of the test... imparting noogies to me when I missed questions. I took the final and came out with an incredible sense of relief that it was over and a fear of the results. It was past though and now I could enjoy being with my family as we celebrated my grandmother's birthday before the visitation for my Grandpa. In-between that time I got me results back for my final... I had done well and I had passed the class! Again I was overwhelmed by God's grace in getting me through the final, and indeed the whole class, despite the many obstacles. At the visitation and the funeral I was reminded of my Grandpa's love and character as I saw so many people show that had been touched by his generous and loving nature. At the funeral, the pastor reminded us all that though Grandpa was a generous, kind, funny and loving, those did not make him a great man and he knew that. Grandpa knew that he was nothing apart from God and it was because of God that he had those incredible qualities and touched so many lives.
I look back now and I am incredibly grateful for my Grandfather and the years I had with him. However, I know that however much I miss him, he does not miss me as he is in heaven with his Savior.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Back to the Classics Challenge 2014 Wrap up Post

So I obviously don't pay attention enough or I would have realized I needed to write a wrap up post for my Back to the Classics Challenge that I finished a couple months ago. :( No worries, cause here it is now! :)
I only completed the six required categories this year. It was tons of fun to branch out into books I might not have read if they hadn't fit into those categories. As you all know, I love the classics so this was definitely my favorite challenge this year. :)
So here's what I read.
  1. 20th Century Classic: The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  2. 19th Century Classic: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  3. Classic by a Woman Author: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell 
  4. Classic in Translation: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  5. Classic about War: Bridge on the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
  6. Classic by an Author who is new to you:  War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
I enjoyed all of the books but I especially enjoyed Bridge on the River Kwai, The Lord of the Flies, The Picture of Dorian Gray and North and South. Overall it was a great year for reading and this challenge made it even better! :)

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top Ten New to Me Authors I read in 2014

In no particular comes my list that I'll have you know was quite hard to write. Even harder to write, I'm sure will be the Top Ten Tuesday when they ask for the best books of 2014. It's coming... I know it is. I read a LOT of good books this year I'm happy to say and I'm so excited for next year and even MORE reading! Links will take you to a review of the book if I wrote one.
  1. Frank Herbert (Dune)
  2. Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow)
  3. John Piper (Don't Waste Your Life)
  4. Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Grey)
  5. William Goldman (The Princess Bride)
  6. William Golding (The Lord of the Flies)
  7. Iris Chang (The Rape of Nanking)
  8. Pierre Boulle (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  9. J. Gresham Machem (Christianity and Liberalism
  10. Kathryn Stockett (The Help
Linking up with Broke and Bookish

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Classics Club- December Meme Question

The classics club meme question for December is favorite classics as a child. Now this is a topic near and dear to me. I love children's classics and I read tons of them growing up and still sneak back to them every once and awhile.
Here are some of my favorites:

  • Little Women and others by Louise May Alcott
  • Anne of Green Gables and others by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • Little House in the Big Woods and others by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Saturdays and others by Elizabeth Enright
  • Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
  • Freddy Goes to Florida and others by Walter Brooks
  • Swallows and Amazons and others by Arthur Ransom
  • In the Reign of Terror and others by G.A. Henry
  • The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Little Maid of Old Connecticut by Alice Curtis
  • The Book of Three and others by Lloyd Alexander
Funnily enough these are all on my re-reading list for next year that I made for my Hard Core Re-reading Challenge. I love re-reading my old favorites. :)


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