Monthly Book Review: Part 1. [6/ 2016] / by Alexandra Fox

Going to start keeping tracks of the books I read and how I liked them. I feel like once I actually start to do this I can better hone in on what I like! So, here are my reads from the past month:

  • Mansfield Park - 3/ 10
  • Persuasion - 2/ 10
  • Northanger Abbey - 1/ 10
  • Love in the Time of Cholera - 9/ 10
  • Blindness - 4/10
  • The Forever War - 7/ 10
  • Outlander - 1/ 10

First, I read three Jane Austen books. Not because I love Jane Austen, but because they're free on Kindle :) :

Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen.

Apparently Mansfield Park is Austen's third novel, and I would say the quality of and enjoyment factor of her novels decreases the more she wrote, and the more you read them. Of the three here, it's arguably the most enjoyable, but I can hardly say it was worthwhile reading. I can give you the plot summary of all Austen's books here:

First, there is a frivolous maternal figure: she is either simple, vapid, or ridiculous. She does too much, or too little. She is wholly focused on appearance, but never seems able to appreciate how she herself appears. 

Next, there is her paternal match. He is the mother's antithesis: smart, capable, sometimes stern, but having good intentions. In him there is slightly more complexity, and we are to love him.

Of course, we have our heroine and our hero. Our heroine is all open heart and good morals, our hero is all misunderstood but revealed to have been driven by love throughout. Blah, blah blah. In other of Austen's works I've always found at least the two pivotal characters to be likeable, but I can hardly say that for any of these three, save perhaps Mansfield Park.

The point is: skip these books. If you read 'Pride and Prejudice' and think you like Jane Austen, 'Emma' and 'Sense and Sensibility' are tolerable. These are not. Persuasion adds no additional value.  Northanger Abbey I couldn't even finish, it was so ridiculous.


Love in the Time of CholeraGabriel García Marquez.

This is my second book by Gabriel García Marquez; I was really enthusiastic to read more after '100 Years of Solitude'. I honestly couldn't say which between the two I love more. His essence comes through in both, and yet the style and flow of each remain totally unique and distinct. It's truly wonderful!

I adored this book, in part because I'm a sucker for good love stories. And this one has two, all wrapped up into one. It's complicated and poignant, even while remaining hysterically funny and wonderfully absurd throughout. 

Marquez touches on so many complicated aspects of the human experience and makes them appear simple: love, aging, pride, sacrifice. 'Love in the Time of Cholera' is a lucid dream. It's one of those books that you feel like you should read, and find that it's not at all a chore to do so. It doesn't require any special attention or extra brainpower, it's pure enjoyment. You can muse on it as much or as little as you like. Highly recommend!


Blindness, José Saramago.

I did not enjoy this book. Apparently it's a Nobel Prize winner. And I suppose I can see why; the essential premise is a good one: what happens to society when all of a sudden, the whole world goes blind

Sounds interesting, right? And you want to know what happens! What happens when the whole world suddenly goes dumb... ?

The first half of the book, I quite enjoyed. It's well written; it's a good story. But in this blind world, there is one woman who by chance maintains her eyesight - and what she sees is.... abhorrent. Detestable. Repulsive. The lowest degradation of humanity.

Okay, yes. The reason I disliked this one so much was because, simply put, it gets quite disgusting. At some point, it becomes continuous descriptions of human debasement: filth, excrement, foulness... ravaging, slaughter, rape. It's not that the book is bad, it's just, frankly, sickening.

Let's say this: if Clockwork Orange is one of your favorite books, you'll be fine.


The Forever War, Joe Haldeman.

The way this book was described to me turned out to be totally different from what it actually is. I had imagined a time-traveling soldier who is sent through space to kill potential offensives before they can happen. (Incidentally, does that book exist? Because that sounds tight).

'The Forever War' chronicles a millennia-long conflict between humans and an alien race: 'the Taurans'. The war begins roughly in our time, and the novel follows a young man (Mandella) who is conscripted into military service with the United Nations Exploratory Force. Through the laws of relativity and hyper-speed travel, he manages to live through the entirety of the war, despite only experiencing a passage of less than a decade. 

The book is cool - everytime Mandella returns from a mission, another thousand millennia have passed, and he has to adjust to and re-learn the drastic changes in human behaviors, society, and technologies. It's an interesting imagining of our social and technological development, and a coherent look at human conflict and relationships. 

If you enjoy science fiction, it's a worthwhile read. Also, apparently a film production led by Warner Bros. is in the works.


OutlanderDiana Gabaldon.

Oh, my god. What a ridiculous waste of $8 and a terrible use of my time. The worst book I've read in recent memory.

I hated this book. For whatever reason, I thought: why, sure! This keeps popping up on #1 on all these bestseller lists, it must be an enjoyable read!

Folks - 

do not. read. this book.

These, I imagine, are some people who might reasonably enjoy this book:

  • upper- and middle- class women ages 15-65, who have an inner sadistic streak
  • women who have extreme partiality for redheads.
  • high school teachers who are both 'Twilight' fans and Scottish history enthusiasts
  • straight women who in their free time write gay fan fiction stories for the inter-web
  • and possibly men who have not yet dabbled in BDSM, but are peripherally curious in the role of "submissive"

The entire time I reluctantly trudged through this novel, I was basically waiting for it to turn and get better. It never did. I can't even describe the plot to you, my experience of the novel was basically: torture scene, break, torture, more torture, escape from torture, re-capture, additional torture, an increase in torture, recovery, torture, previously unimaginable levels of torture.

What the hell did I read?


Happy reading folks -

- A