BOOK REVIEW: Flowers For Algernon – by Daniel Keyes

Title: Flowers For Algernon
Author: Daniel Keyes

Genre: Classics, YA, Science Fiction
First published: 1966
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: September 21st 2017
Pages: 311

“How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibilty, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes—how such people think nothing of abusing a man with low intelligence.”

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I’ve had this modern classic on my TBR for a long time, although I admit I was completely clueless about the plot and didn’t even have a general idea of what the story was going to be about. Then again, I do like my surprises… And Flowers For Algernon turned out to be a very pleasant surprise at that. Because WOW. This is one powerful story that managed to break my heart completely by the time I reached the last page… I can definitely understand why this novel by Daniel Keyes has become a modern classic. Brilliant prose, intriguing plot, well developed characters… This story has it all. Flowers For Algernon is a science fiction read with a very interesting theme: intelligence enhancement with the help of a brain operation. This theme is very well developed with the help of the main character Charlie, showing both the before and after of this experimental operation. First of all I just loved how the writing itself was a very clear demonstration of Charlie’s mental state and how things change over time. I agree I was a bit surprised when I first encountered myself with the seemingly horrid spelling, but once you understand its significance and the fact that this story is told with the help of Charlie’s progress reports during the experiment, you will realize the brilliancy of it all. Charlie is the perfect character to help show the light on the prejudices around (the lack of) intelligence and how people treat others differently accordingly. You will become really invested in this story and will find your heart broken before the story ends. Flowers For Algernon will go straight to my list of favorite classics and I can highly recommend this one.

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Charlie is a mentally disabled man, but he has always wanted to improve his intelligence and be ‘normal’ as his mother always wanted. He participates in an experiment and undergoes a brain operation that will possibly increase his IQ and change his life. The experimental procedure starts to work and slowly Charlie’s intelligence starts to expand… But at what cost?

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up my copy of Flowers For Algernon, but I’m more than happy with what I found. The writing is simply brilliant, as both the progress reports and the prose itself give the perfect insight of what happens to Charlie during the experiment. The way others react to Charlie during different stages of the experiment is both intriguing and unfortunately very accurate as well. Hopefully an eye opener! Flowers For Algernon is able to provoke strong emotions and is utterly heartbreaking in the end.


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BOOK REVIEW: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – by Lewis Carroll

Title: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: July 4th 1865
Publisher: Puffin Books
Finished reading: August 29th 2017
Pages: 160

“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”

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I still can’t believe I have never picked up the original version of the famous Alice In Wonderland retellings before! Or at least that I can remember… However it be, I’m glad I finally decided to do so. Because even though Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is a classic and written back in the 19th century, I was surprise by just how easy the prose was to read and how entertaining the story was in general. Sure, there isn’t much of a plot to talk about and nothing really makes sense. Sure, the characters are not really all that developed. Sure, I would have liked to see the whole Wonderland setting more developed. But there is just something about this story that made me smile. Could it have to do with the fact I have been familiar with most of the details around this story since I was little? Maybe. But I had a great time reading this little bundle of nonsense and absurd fantastical ramblings. These words ment only in the best possible ways of course! Do I like some of the retellings better where the worldbuilding is way more extensive and there is actually a plot? Probably. But I’m glad I finally read the original version as was written by Lewis Carroll all those years ago.

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One day Alice follows a peculiar White Rabbit down a rabbit hole, and suddenly finds herself in a completely different world where nothing makes sense. It’s filled with creatures like the Mad Hatter, a disappearing Cheshire Cat, talking animals, the Queen Of Hearts… Nothing is as it seems in this strange world called Wonderland, something that Alice will find out soon enough.

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I kept the summary supershort since I’m positive just about everyone will already be familiar with this classic in the first place. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is surprisingly easy to read for a classic and quite short as well; I was able to fly through it in a blink of an eye. There isn’t much of a plot to talk about and basically nothing really makes sense, but in the end this story was able to bring a smile to my face and sometimes that is just the most important thing. I do realize now most of the retellings are way more detailed than the original story… Something that has truly surprised me.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Jungle Book – by Rudyard Kipling

Title: The Jungle Book
Author: Rudyard Kipling

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1894
Publisher: Random House UK
Finished reading: August 14th 2017
Pages: 248

“The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him.”

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I’ve been seriously neglecting my classics this year, but didn’t want to force myself to read something complicated to avoid worsening my slump either. That is when I remembered I had a copy of The Jungle Book on my kindle, and decided to read it on the spot. I must have seen the Disney movie a hundred times when I was little and still remember some of the songs to this date… So I was really looking forward to finally read the original story the movie was based on. And let me tell you, the people of Disney have interpreted Mowgli’s story VERY loosely. I personally didn’t mind that much since it has been ages (read: 15-20 years; damn I feel old!) since I last saw the movie in the first place, but I can imagine true fans of the movie will be surprised when they start reading the classic. I really liked Rudyard Kipling‘s story of Mowgli though and was surprised by how easy it was to understand the prose. It shows in the dialogue this story was written in the 19th century, but the rest of The Jungle Book didn’t feel dated at all. I really enjoyed reading the original version of Mowgli and probably would have rated this book even higher if it wouldn’t have been for the other stories included afterwards. I’ve seen others like those four stories about seals, the mongoose, an elephant and animals used in the army better, but I personally prefered Mowgli. All in all this was definitely still a very positive experience reading a classic and I’m glad I made time to read The Jungle Book.

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A young man-cub barely escapes the claws of the greedy tiger Shere Khan as he is found by Father Wolf and Mother Wolf in the jungle. Shere Khan demands the wolfs to hand the man-cub over, but Father and Mother Wolf are determined to protect the little one and decide to raise the child as their own. Little Mowgli grows up among the wolves, but there will come a time the pack can no longer defend him… And Mowgli will have to learn the secrets of the Jungle in order to survive.

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I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to read this classic. Sure, the dialogues felt a bit dated, but the rest of the writing read naturally and made it really easy to enjoy Mowgli’s story. The other four stories included afterwards weren’t as enjoyable for me and lowered the rating a bit, but all in all I can definitely recommend The Jungle Book to those who are looking for an easy and entertaining classic. The songs at the beginning of the chapters were a nice touch!


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BOOK REVIEW: Little Women – by Louisa May Alcott

Title: Little Women
(Little Women #1)
Author: Louisa May Alcott

Genre: Classics, YA, Contemporary
First published: September 30th 1868
Finished reading: June 30th 2017
Pages: 284

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

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Looks like it’s ‘unpopular opinion’ time again! I really wanted to love this classic, but I found myself not enjoying it nearly as much as I thought I would instead. After a little investigation (and help from fellow book bloggers), I now understand that Little Women actually has two different parts, the second part written one year after the original story and also published separately under the name Good Wives. The kindle version I have does include both parts, but after long deliberation I have decided not to continue with it. Why? Even though I really wanted to enjoy this classic, I had a hard time reading it and it took me ages just to finish the first part. I’m not saying Little Women is a bad read, just that it either wasn’t the right time or simply just not for me. And since I have read quite a few negative reviews about Good Wives in the first place, I’m just not up for another struggle. I can’t deny it’s a very well written story and I can see why so many people actually love it. I might actually have enjoyed Little Women a lot better if I would have read it 15-20 years ago… But right now the story unfortunately didn’t appeal to me. I was surprised I found myself unable to truly connect to the characters and it took me weeks and finally reading one chapter at the time just to make it to the end of Part One. This is most definitely me and not this classic, but still… Not a very pleasant reading experience. So I’m sorry to all of those who call this classic their favorite! Trust me, I’ve REALLY tried to love Little Women.

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Little Women is the story of four sisters trying to continue with their lives after their father has gone to war. Jo, Meg, Bath and Amy March are young ladies growing up and their different personalities clash at times, but they all want to do their best helping their mother to keep things running smoothly at home. It’s a coming of age story filled with daily situations, friendship, struggles and life lessons.

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Like I said before, I feel actually quite bad I wasn’t able to enjoy Little Women better. I had really high hopes for this classic, but I found myself struggling to continue instead. This is definitely me and not the story, because I could see Little Women was well written as well as its appeal to many readers. I guess I just wasn’t one of them in the end. I don’t think I will ever read the second part, but I’m glad I at least now know what everybody is talking about when they mention this classic.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Color Purple – by Alice Walker

Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker

Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 1982
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: April 5th 2017
Pages: 304

“Oh Celie, unbelief is a terrible thing. And so is the hurt we cause others unknowingly.”

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Warning: possible unpopular opinion ahead.

Part of the promise I made myself this year is that I would try to read more classics this year as well as try to finally read some of the TBR backlist titles. The Color Purple by Alice Walker fits right into both categories: it’s a modern classic I’ve somehow never picked up before and I decided to change that this month. I’ve seen a lot of raving reviews about this classic and a lot of high ratings, so I found myself rather looking forward to it. And I have to say I was surprised when I found myself struggling to continue reading this story instead… Because it took me a LONG time to get used to the writing style. I get that the author is trying to make Celie’s voice feel more authentic, but it also makes her chapters a lot more difficult to read with all the broken sentences, words and bad grammar. Celie is an uneducated child wife living in the South and I’m sure very accurately described, but that doesn’t take away my feelings of frustration while I read her chapters. Luckily I found the second half of The Color Purple to be a lot better (mainly thanks to Nettie), or else I don’t think I would have finished it… To make things clear: my feelings have nothing to do with the fact that this book is right in your face when it comes to unpleasant themes as child abuse, rape and violence. Alice Walker doesn’t try to sugarcoat the situation and action of the main characters and while unpleasant, it does also give a very strong message. It’s without doubt a colorful read and I understand why it’s called a modern classic… I guess it just wasn’t for me.

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The Color Purple tells the story of two sisters who ended up living separate lives. While Celie is not able to escape her destiny and becomes yet another uneducated child wife living in the South, she managed to avoid her sister Nettie having to face the same fate. It does mean they will have to live far away from each other… As Nettie ends up living as a missionary in Africa. The story follows the two sisters over time and even though they are not able to keep contact, they remain loyal to each other and both have faith that some day they will see each other again. What will happen to the two sisters? Will they survive the challenges life will throw at them?

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I really wanted to like this modern classic, but I never recovered from my initial struggle with the writing style and voice of one of the main characters (Celie). The story itself is without doubt both shocking, intimidating, intriguing and heartbreaking; raw, but very realistic descriptions and feelings. I do have to say I enjoying the second part a lot better, but I’m having the feeling this book and me just aren’t a good fit. Most people seem to have a lot of love for The Color Purple, so don’t let my review discourage you! A little warning for those who are sensitive to graphic scenes including abuse and rape though.


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BOOK REVIEW: Wuthering Heights – by Emily Brontë

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Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Brontë
Genre: Classics, Fiction, Romance
First published: 1847
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 31st 2016
Pages: 360
(Audio duration 13hs 14m 06s)
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“I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I’m going to tell it – but take care not to smile at any part of it.”

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I was browsing my list of reviews the other day and realized I totally forgot to write my review on my last read of 2016. Oops? So this is me making up for that. My last read of 2016 was actually an audiobook I listened to on Audible of one of the popular classics: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It was my first experience with the Brontë sister’s books and I have to say it was quite a positive one. I’m still a newbie when it comes to listening to audiobooks, but I found my experience listening to the story of Heathcliff and Catherine to be so much more entertaining than I thought I would! Sure, there is a lot of drama going on and I didn’t really like every character, but I found myself looking forward to my time with the inhabitants of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. It’s a bit hard to properly judge the writing style by just listening to the prose, but I’m quite positive I would enjoy reading the physical version of Wuthering Heights just as much. I definitely have it marked for a ‘reread’ some time in the future!

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Lockwood is the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors. One night he is forced to seek shelter at the home of his landlord at Wuthering Heights, and it is not a positive experience. And then he finds out all about the history of the events that took place years ago and influenced the history of both Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. It all started with young Heathcliff and Catherine, and when things didn’t turn out as planned the events that happened next have influenced current and future generations alike…

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I have to admit I was never sure the classics of the Brontë sisters would be my thing, but I’m glad I finally gave Wuthering Heights a go. Audiobook or not, I enjoyed this story so much better than I thought I would even though some of the characters can be quite irritable. The history of both families is intriguing and I will definitely be looking forward to revisit this world some time in the future when I pick up the physical version.


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BOOK REVIEW: Rubyfruit Jungle – by Rita Mae Brown

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Title: Rubyfruit Jungle
Author: Rita Mae Brown

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Glbt
First published: 1973
Publisher: Bantam
Finished reading: December 28th 2016
Pages: 240
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“Oh great, you too. So now I wear this label ‘Queer’ emblazoned across my chest. Or I could always carve a scarlet ‘L’ on my forehead. Why does everyone have to put you in a box and nail the lid on it? I don’t know what I am—polymorphous and perverse. Shit. I don’t even know if I’m white. I’m me. That’s all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?”

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I confess I came across this book by accident, but I was immediately intrigued by both the cover and the blurb. The fact that Rubyfruit Jungle is a coming of age story written back in 1973 and talks about the glbt theme so openly is both impressive and inspiring. I can see why so many people seem to find Rita Mae Brown‘s book that powerful… Because as we follow the main character Molly Bolt, basically every cliche involving the glbt community is included and talked about.  It’s so interesting to read about how the situation was back then and compare them to our current one! The prose is both refreshing and entertaining to read, and I was able to finish this modern classic in no time at all. Molly Bolt isn’t exactly the most ‘perfect’ character out there, but it is so easy to like her with all her flaws. She says and does exactly how she thinks and I can really appreciate that. There is some swearing involved in Rubyfruit Jungle, but in this case it is basically part of the character building. All in all a very interesting read!

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Molly Bolt is the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who stubbornly decided to find a way to improve her current life. She has been determined not to have other people stop her from reaching her goals and dreams, even if she wants things other people might find odd. That includes Molly finding women more attractive than men, and she refuses to apologize for loving them. But will she be able to succeed in life?

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If you enjoy reading a good glbt coming of age story where the main character doesn’t shy away from saying the painful truth and you don’t mind a bit of colorful prose, I can strongly suggest reading Rubyfruit Jungle. I personally loved the unorthodox prose and I had so much fun reading this story. Molly Bolt is such an intriguing and well developed character and it was really interesting to follow her difficult journey to adulthood. It’s a very original and powerful story and even more impressive if you think about the time when Rubyfruit Jungle was first published.