Eternal Life by Dara Horn: my thoughts

Hello again 🙂 I am back with some thoughts on another book I just finished. I heard about this book while listening to one of my favorite podcasts not long ago. The premise sounded fascinating so I went and bought it immediately.

A brief synopsis:

Rachel is a young 2000 year old woman (seriously) who cannot die. As a young mother living in Jerusalem, she had made a pact with God to spare the life of her son. The book follows Rachel mainly throughout her modern life with several flashbacks into former years of her life. Having raised many different families over 2000 years (because yea she can still have kids) she struggles in the modern era with a granddaughter who is a renowned scientist specializing in genetics. Will she find out Rachel’s secret and expose her? And what would be the consequences if she does?

My thoughts:

I really loved the idea of this book. I always love books that take place over multiple generations or that tie together events from different millennia. There was some beautiful writing in the book during particular scenes and the flashbacks to earlier times in her life were particularly well written. Dara Horn seems to be familiar with and done a decent amount of research into daily life in ancient Jerusalem. But despite all this, I found there to be something lacking- especially in regards to the ending. I disliked most of the characters and I really didn’t care for any of the relationships between characters, whether between parents and children or between lovers. The one character I was rather fond of was the one that Rachel kept at arms length for the whole book and it frustrated me quite a bit. So the bottom line is, yes I enjoyed the book but no I did not love it. I give it 3.5/5 stars. This is a book I would recommend when it comes out in paperback and not a shiny new hardback.

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The Little Prince: my thoughts

If you have a Netflix account, you’ve probably seen the trailer for The Little Prince recently. It looked so adorable that I wanted to watch it and since one does not simply watch the movie first… I had to read it of course.

A brief synopsis:

A pilot who unfortunately has grown up crash lands in the middle of the desert. There he meets a little boy from another planet. The boy tells the story of how he fled his planet because of his love for a rose. In telling his story, the little boy reminds the pilot of the magic of seeing the world through a child’s eyes and the dangers of losing that magic when you grow up.

My thoughts:

So I really loved this book.  The entire book was just whimsical and magical.  I love how even though the pilot is a grown up, he remembers the feeling of drawing a picture that the adults just didn’t understand and the feeling has stayed with him.  When he meets the little prince, he meets a child who understands perfectly.  The pilot is an adult who hasn’t fallen into one of the typical categories that other adults in the story have.  The little prince is just charming and I fell in love with him as a character.  He lives alone on his planet and his only friend on his planet is a single rose.  After having a disagreement with his rose, he leaves his planet and passes through many other planets.

On each planet is a single adult and I loved how each of them embodied a different adult characteristic that children just don’t understand.  For instance, he meets one man on a planet who spends all day and all night counting the stars because he “owns them”. When the little prince asks why he needs to count them, the man informs him that it is very important to calculate numbers so he can own more.  Another man on another planet spends all his time preening and looking for someone to admire his clothes.

It is a little difficult to put into words all the things I loved about this book, but I loved both the pilot and the little prince.  The love the prince had for his rose was very sweet.  I would definitely recommend this book to children and adults.  This was one of the few books in recent months that I’ve given 5 stars.

Thank you for joining me once again and if you have read this or plan to read this, please let me know what you thought or think…

Until next time, happy reading!

The Luminaries: my thoughts

Having heard so many things about this novel, I have been wanting to read it for over a year. So I borrowed it from the library and attempted to dive in. I quickly realized that this was a book I wanted to take my sweet time with and so I returned it and bought my own copy.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

A brief synopsis:

Walter Moody, a young Scottish lawyer, arrives in a gold mining town in 1866 New Zealand on a stormy night. He walks into a lounge at his hotel and disturbs… something. Inside the room are 12 men of different races and different walks of life discussing a series of mysterious events that occurred on the same day two weeks prior. A man is found dead, a prostitute is found collapsed in the street and a rich man goes missing.  When it is discovered that Moody has a slight connection to the events in question, they take him into their confidence and attempt to figure out what happened.

My thoughts:

Where to even begin?  The book was written in the style of a Victorian novel which I really really enjoyed.  It was done so well that I could really have believed it was a Victorian novel.  The structure of the novel was great.  Basically the first 300 something pages were dedicated to that night in the hotel lounge learning of the mysterious events that had taken place two weeks prior.  The whole rest of the novel takes place afterwards.  The book is divided into 12 parts and sections with a different character the focus of each.  At the beginning of each “part” there is a kind of zodiac chart that I’m afraid was lost on me but I did not find it necessary to the story. Though I did notice that the parts of the story “waned” like the moon. (Though I mean to look into it in further depth and maybe come back and amend this review) As we see a little bit more into each character’s life, a little bit of the truth is revealed, piece by piece.  It was wonderfully done in my opinion.  For a book this large – all 832 pages of it- it never dragged.  Every page was necessary to the story.

Catton’s choice of setting was spot on and she managed to bring an 1860’s goldmining town to life. She also focuses attention on the opium trade and the life of Chinese workers in a mining encampment.

I should also point out that I have never read a book with such a well crafted cast of characters.  Before this, I had considered Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express unique for its large cast of interesting characters.  Until now. There were TWENTY main characters in this book. TWENTY. I have read books with only a handful of characters that the author still manages to make flat.  I guess with an 800 page book, it’s kind of hard not to get to know the characters but Eleanor Catton managed to create 20 well rounded characters and every single one of them was integral to the story.

I guess to sum it up I’d say that there is a reason why this book won the Man Booker Prize.  I thought it was a really remarkable book.  I loved the writing, the structure, the characters, and the plot.  I highly recommend this book and I hope people are not turned off by the size.  I don’t often give 5 stars but this book I gave 5 stars, hearts, or whatever unit of measurement we are using these days.

If you have read this book, please tell me your thoughts.  I’m dying to discuss this one with someone!

My Cousin Rachel: my thoughts

I bought this book a few months ago while  I was in a gothic fiction phase. This is not unusual for me because gothic fiction and romance is one of my favorite types of books to read (there’s something about sinister characters and spooky manor houses that I can’t get enough of) but sometimes I go through these little phases where I’ll read several in succession. Well I happened to be at Target and saw the movie cover version on sale and I bought it. (Though I typically hate movie covers this one wasn’t terrible and it was on sale… OK OK I JUST WANTED TO READ IT GEEZ)

Brief synopsis:

Philip Ashley, the cousin and adopted son and heir of Ambrose Ashley is devastated by the marriage and shortly after, death of Ambrose while on a long trip to Italy for his health. Ambrose, a confirmed lifelong bachelor travels to the continent each year for his health, leaving Philip to run the estate in his absence. On his final trip, he meets and falls in love with a distant family connection and then marries her. He writes home to Philip delighted with his new wife but after several weeks he sends Philip paranoid letters home asking for help claiming his wife is spying on him and keeping him under lock and key. His health declines further and he dies before Philip can make it to him. Grief stricken, Philip suspects the wife of foul play and makes up his mind to hate her while everyone else puts Ambrose’s death and strange behavior down to a brain tumor which is how his own father had died (also having behaved strangely before his death). When Rachel comes to visit the estate, Philip is convinced of her guilt… until he meets her. She is graceful and attractive and devastated over the loss of her husband. Surely she can’t be guilty? Or is she?

My thoughts:

The tension in this book is wonderful. I think this is something that Daphne Du Maurier excels at in all the books I’ve read of hers.  The whole first section of the book we can understand Philip’s thoughts and we are dying to meet Rachel.  When Rachel finally appears, we are constantly left wondering if she did it.  We become convinced of her innocence and her guilt in turns. Certain incidents appear to repeat themselves and we are unsure whether it is coincidence or whether Rachel has a hand in it. The atmosphere alone makes this book what it is.

There are several key characters in this book and often it is difficult to see what their motivations are. Rachel is both fascinating and complex. Philip is naive and probably the most annoying character I have ever encountered in fiction. There were many times that I wanted to reach through the pages and smack some common sense into him or just smack him in general. If you prefer character based stories, Philip may turn you off the entire book but I am a plot reader so I kept it up.  Meanwhile, characters like Rachel’s lawyer (whose name escapes me at the moment) seem very sinister while Philip’s friend Louise seems like the only normal character in the book.

The book was a page turner for me but it is seldom that a character annoys me the way Philip did.  I enjoyed the read, but I thought the ending just a little flat. Though some might argue that the ending is what makes this book so great. To sum it up, I guess I’d say that the story was great, there were some good characters (and one really annoying one), but that personally I found the ending just a bit unsatisfying.  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads.

Thanks for joining me and happy reading 🙂

Project Poirot

Some time around September I was binge watching booktube and came across a new book tuber who had just started what she called Project Poirot. Even if you are not an avid Agatha Christie fan, you will probably have heard of her most famous detective- Hercule Poirot.  Now I happen to be one of those who love Agatha Christie and in the last 20 or so years since I discovered Agatha Christie (holy shit I’m getting old) I have read all of her Hercule Poirot books and most of the short stories at some point.  When I am in a reading slump I often pick up one of my favorite of these and it gets me right back in the reading mood.

What intrigued me about Project Poirot is that we are reading all 40 ish (there’s 40ish depending on whether you consider the play adaptations novels or not) IN ORDER over the course of a year.  Not only does this play into my borderline obsession with Hercule Poirot, it is also fascinating to see how her writing evolved over the course of her career and how Poirot himself evolved as a character.  Taking it a step further, one of the things I also find fascinating was to see how the quality of her writing changed before and after (what is largely considered to be her masterpiece) The Murder on the Orient Express.

The list of books that I’m going through is:

  1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  2. Murder on the Links
  3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (considered by some to be her masterpiece)
  4. The Big Four
  5. The Mystery of the Blue Train
  6. Peril at End House
  7. Lord Edgware Dies
  8. Murder in Mesopotamia
  9. Murder on the Orient Express
  10. Three Act Tragedy
  11. Death in the Clouds
  12. The ABC Murders
  13. Dumb Witness
  14. Cards on the Table
  15. Death on the Nile
  16. Appointment with Death
  17. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
  18. One Two Buckle My Shoe
  19. Sad Cypress
  20. Evil Under the Sun
  21. Five Little Pigs
  22. The Hollow
  23. Taken at the Flood
  24. Mrs Mcginty’s Dead
  25. After the Funeral
  26. Hickory Dickory Dock
  27. Dead Man’s Folly
  28. Cat Among the Pigeons
  29. The Clocks
  30. Third Girl
  31. Halloween Party
  32. Elephants Can Remember
  33. Curtain

I joined this challenge a little late and was a couple books behind and then I caught up but I am now behind again as I am missing the next book in succession and haven’t been able to find it at the libraries near me.  So I will be purchasing that book along with a couple of others.  This has been a really enjoyable challenge and I enjoy how Mara creates a video for each book she completes.

If there are any fellow Christie fans out there reading this, what do you think about this challenge?

My thoughts on Madame Bovary

I recently read Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and I had a few thoughts.

I found this copy at a thrift store and it was in very decent condition.

Anyway, a brief synopsis:

The book initially follows Charles Bovary, a country doctor in a small town in France. He marries a very unpleasant older lady of his mother’s choosing who is supposed to have been very well off financially. On a visit to a patient he meets the patient’s daughter Emma who is young, pretty, well educated, and a hopeless romantic (due to the novels she loves). Charles of course falls in love with her and in the meantime he discovers that his wife is not the rich woman she made herself out to be. When the wife dies he marries Emma. At this point in the book it shifts to Emma- the second Madame Bovary- as she learns that married life is not the luxurious and romantic life she imagined. The rest of the book follows her as she begins to live outside her means and makes one bad decision after another.

Initially when I read this book all I could think about was how annoying the characters are. Charles is boring and clueless while Emma is a train wreck. But on further reflection, (its been about two weeks since I finished) I realized that I was judging them all by today’s standards.

Looking at Charles, he is a very ordinary country doctor for the time period. He has a calm domestic life and feels no ambition to become a world renowned doctor. He’s perfectly content with his wife and his life and has no idea his marriage is in turmoil because Emma has never told him of her difficulties and it wouldn’t occur to a married man in those days that perhaps his wife wants something more out of life than running the home and raising a family. It is a bit frustrating as the modern reader to be able to see what is right under his nose but he hasn’t the slightest clue.

Emma is a lot more complex as a character. She is naive, emotional and ambitious for her husband. She is bored in her marriage and is full of rage for what she considers her husband’s lack of ambition. In a way she reminds me a little of Catherine from Northanger Abbey because she too has read novels that influence the way she sees the world. I think that the way Emma is dissatisfied with solely being a housewife to a middle class doctor is a very modern feeling and I can identify with that to some extent. What makes me want to scream is how she expects her husband to understand what she’s feeling without ever conveying it to him. Instead she goes behind his back to borrow money and buy expensive things and forms bad relationships to fill the need of hers to live like a romantic heroine in one of her novels.

Flaubert’s writing was very descriptive and I am the kind of reader who enjoys that so the book flowed well for me. I can see why this book was considered scandalous for the time period in which it was written. A well brought up genteel lady unhappy and behaving like a common hussy because she is bored with her marriage? Gasp.

All in all a very good read that I would recommend. I initially gave it 3.5 stars and amended it to 4 out of 5 stars.

If you’ve read this, tell me your thoughts!