lunes, 1 de febrero de 2016

January in Mini-Review

When I said back in December that I wanted to blog differently, I meant it. One of the things that were stressing me were reviews. I enjoy writing little comments about what I read for my perusal. My memory is not good at all, and my reviews come to help when I want to recall what a book was about. 

But sometimes I just don't have so much to say about a book, or a short paragraph is enough to convey my opinion. The solution came to mind this week: I can do monthly mini-reviews! And if I want to talk more about a book, I can always publish a more extensive review anyway. So here we go with a hound from hell, a teenage alien killing spree, a villain trying to escape a mental prison, and a voyage around the world.

1. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)

What is it about? A hound from hell is haunting the Baskerville family mansion in the moors. After the recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville in mysterious circumstances, his only heir contacts Sherlock Holmes to banish the curse that has been troubling his family for centuries.

Why did I read it? On one of my many rewatches of Sherlock, that masterpiece of British television, I decided I wanted to reread every Sherlock Holmes book. I added them to my Classics Club list and have currently finished #5 out of 9, putting me past the equator.

What did I think? It's more entertaining than I remembered, specially compared to the other slow-going Sherlock novels (I think the short stories are superior in every aspect). The novel is very atmospheric, with ominous moors and a hint of the supernatural, and has a very gothic plot, full of secret wives, secret children and not one, but two murderers. It's a bit of a romp. The only downside is that it's narrated mostly through extracts from Dr. Watson's diaries and Sherlock doesn't appear as much as I would have liked.

Verdict: Solid 4/5. I really enjoyed. If you are a newbie to Sherlock, I recommend starting with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and then following with this novel.

2. Marvel Boy - Grant Morrison & J.G. Jones (2000)

What is it about? I wish I could tell you! Ha. Okay, it's about Noh-Varr, aka Marvel Boy, a teenaged Kree alien from planet Hala who's seeking vengeance on the petty humans who have killed his family and friends just for profit and then tried to enslave him and experiment on him. The problem is that instead of focusing only on Dr. Midas, the madman behind this tragedy, he's decided to vent his wrath upon all humankind - or at least, New York.

Why did I read it? This is a question I'm still comtemplating, as this was so lame! When I was a young kid, I used to read old Marvel issues from when my dad was a teen and thought they were a blast. But I never bought new ones myself because I thought the world of superhero comics was too sprawling and complicated to know where to start. I was also a victim of being A Woman in a Comic Shop, which is something I hope none of you have to suffer. Enter the Internet! And the democratization of comics knowledge! I found Comic Book Herald's Complete Marvel Reading Order Guide and armed myself with a Marvel Unlimited subscription, ready to have fun.

What did I think? As you probably have guessed, I loathed it. Marvel Boy is what it says on the tin: the ultimate white male teenage power fantasy. I had been led to believe Grant Morrison could write comics. Specifically, controversial and culturally-relevant comics. Well, this is complete bullshit. 

Verdict: negative stars. It's the second worst Marvel comic I've read to date.

3. Doom - Chuck Dixon & Leonardo Manco (2002)

What is it about? Franklin Richards, son of Reed Richards (aka Mister Fantastic from the Fantastic Four), has imprisoned Doctor Doom, their nemesis, on a realm of his prodigious mind. Doom tells the story of how Doctor Doom escaped.

Why did I read it? Next in the Marvel ROG. But I was dreading it. Why, you ask? Chuck Dixon has the honor of having written the worst Marvel comic I've read to date, Marvel Knights.

What did I think? It's terrible. Badly written, full of plot holes, everyone is out of character. It was so bad it was unintendedly funny! If you want to see some panels to see what I'm talking about, click here.

Verdict: 1/5 stars. I disliked it, but not so intensely as I hated Marvel Knights or Marvel Boy.

4. Around the World in Seventy-Two Days - Nellie Bly (1890)

What is it about? Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, better know by her pen name Nellie Bly, was an American journalist during the Victorian era who decided to beat the fictional record of Phileas Fogg of going around the world in less then eighty days. This is the account of her travels.

Why did I read it? I am participating in The Classics Club's Women's Classic Literature in 2016, and my plan is to read a book a month. I am also very interested in kickass women from history, and am particularly attracted to explorers and adventurers. Nellie Bly fits the bill, so I decided to give this a try.

What did I think? It was a fantastic read, better than I was expecting. Nellie Bly has an endearing journalistic voice and reading her exploits is very entertaining. She's also quite against the grain when it comes to what a lady should have been - she presents herself as not the most gracious woman out there, and indeed she has quite a foul mood when she enconters adversities in her travelling times. Her descriptions are luscious without ever incurring on self-indulgent blabbering, which I think it's because of the journalistic nature of her endeavor. Unfortunately, the book is not without problems. Nellie is subject to a colonialistic point of view which leads her to see POCs as inferior per nature, although in her defense I'll say that for being Victorian she fights her own prejudices quite well.
After reading this, I want to know more about her, because she was quite a woman. I actually suspect she could have been queer, since she keeps rebuffing men throughout the book while her descriptions of women are well, of questionable innocence. No less than three times she longs to kiss or caress different women. She eventually married a man who was over 40 years her senior, and they never had kids. Of course this doesn't indicate one thing or the other, so I'm quite curious about what her biographers have to say about her.

Verdict: 4/5 stars. Her descriptions of 'coolies' and 'Chinamen' are off-putting, but historically coherent, so I thought I would warn you just in case.

8 comentarios:

  1. Interesting. I, too, have a Nellie Bly book that I plan on reading this year for the same challenge. I'm sure it'll handle the concept of mental illness in a similarly old fashioned way, but if you're going to read the classics you need to accept such things.

    1. Oh, oh wait! Are you going to read Ten Days in a Madhouse? Because I want to read it too! Maybe we could buddy read it? Or at least discuss it?

      I'm fully aware that classics can feel very backwards from our point of view, and I only hope that our books will feel the same to future generations. However I was expecting something different from Nellie, maybe because she sounded very current in many other things. Of course, she was a product of her time, as we all are.

    2. Sure, we can buddy read it. It's one of the books on my yearly challenge lists, so I don't have a date. But if you'd like to work a month out that would be great. Not this one (already got too much on my plate). But I could read it next month if you want. Or another month is fine too.

    3. Nice! February is quite challenging for me too. March would be okay, and I see that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which would also be okay. Whenever you prefer!

    4. Let's go for May then. That sounds like a fantastic time to fit it in.

  2. I had no idea that Nellie Bly wrote her own book about her trip around the world! I read Eight Days, a narrative nonfiction account about her and Elisabeth Bisland's race, but I'd love to read about it from Bly's perspective. How cool!

    1. The one written by Matthew Goodman? It's on my wishlist! Glad to know you enjoyed it.