Review for Les Miserables

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Genre – Historical Fiction, Classic

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for death & some mild innuendo

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

This epic weaves many characters together to tell the story of the underdogs, the oppressed people struggling to survive in France in the early 1800’s. We start with Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who has just been released on parole. No one will offer him work due to his criminal past. Until the Bishop of Digne, Charles Myriel gives him supper and a bed for the night. Jean Valjean attempts to steal from Myriel, but the Bishop offers forgiveness and new life instead. Meanwhile Javert was an officer at the prison where Jean Valjean spent his 19 years and has been looking for him since. Javert holds his job above everything else in life. Then there is Fantine; who is destitute and at her wits end to provide for her daughter Cosette. She pays the Thenardiers to look after Cosette, but they scam Fantine for all she is worth, raising the price beyond what she can bear. Marius is a dreamer at heart. Once he realizes just how noble his father was, he leaves the safety of his grandfather’s house to find his own path in life. Fantine, Jean Valjean, Javert, Marius, & Cosette’s lives weave together to form an unforgettable story of redemption.

My Thoughts –

Well, this book holds a fascinating story. I do love the musical and movie versions of this book, but the book goes deeper and truly fleshes out the characters. At the start of the year, I saw that a blogger had decided to read two classic French books in a year – The Count of Monte Cristo & Les Miserables. I had read an abridged version of Les Miserables years ago and thought this should be the year when I actually read the whole thing. I had some time on my hands so went for it. I’m glad I did!! Was there tediously boring parts? Yes, several that didn’t even affect the story much. Plus Hugo is wordy guy! He loves taking pages to cover something that probably needed only a few sentences. At times it was slow going. Beware if you haven’t read the book or at least know the story, there will be *spoilers ahead.*

My Fair Lady movie review & film summary (1994) | Roger Ebert

Despite all this, I did it! I did it! Mentally singing the My Fair Lady song. 😉

There are so many characters woven throughout the novel, some play minor roles and are only in a small percentage of the book. So, I’m just going to mention some of my favorites. First, Jean Valjean. His developmental arc is amazing!! His story is heartbreaking, and shows how much prison can change a person. His transformation into Monsieur Madeleine is unique in that he does it to keep his vow. He uses the money he made to impact and support the town of Montreuil-sur-mer. He builds workhouses to create jobs. But all it takes is one event to bring that crashing down. I loved that Hugo gave us a look into Valjean’s mind and the turmoil he goes through. Love and forgiveness can truly impact a person’s life.

Next, I was surprised at how much I liked Marius in the book. Hugo gives him a bit more backbone as opposed to some of the movies where he is a bit wishy-washy. His love for Cosette is sweet and innocent. I mean they go a whole year without having said one word to each other and just seeing other from a distance. I got frustrated with his constant endeavor to repay the man who saved his father’s life despite knowing that Thenardier is a scoundrel.

There are two minor characters that I loved as well – Gavroche and Enjolras. Gavroche is the forgotten son of Madame Thenardier. He lives on the street, but has generally happy attitude. Unbeknownst to him, he gives his brothers a safe night . While helping at the barricade, Gavroche sacrifices himself to retrieve ammo. Enjolras on the other hand was rich leader of the ABC society. He sought justice and liberty for the people and yet was aloof and distant from his comrades. I found him intriguing and a bit odd.

Although Hugo can be a long-winded writer, he does know how to draw the reader in to the character’s lives. The sections that revolved around plot I enjoyed quite a bit, it was the parts in between that could drag on forever. I kept wanting Hugo to make his point already. He covers everything from politics to his views on religion, and the sewer system as well as the whole battle of Waterloo.

However I do this is a book that everyone should read once in their lifetime. Jean Valjean’s story alone is worth the 1,200 pages. I teared up at the when when Marius realized just how wrong he was about him. Its an expansive story that covers a lot of territory. It took Hugo more then 20 years to write it and it shows. He gives you quite a bit to think about.

Quotes –

“Jean Valjean, my bother, you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good. I have bought your soul to save it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God” ( p. 11).

“Or so she believes, but it is an error to suppose that we can ever exhaust Fate or reach the end of anything . . . He who knows the answer to this knows all things. He is alone. His name is God” (p. 180).

“And he blesses God for having bestowed on him those two riches which the rich so often lack – work which makes a man free, and thought, which makes him worthy of freedom” ( p. 591).

“And then she wholeheartedly loved her father – that is to say, Jean Valjean- with an innocent, confiding love which mad of him the most charming and desirable of companions” (p. 767).

“and he thanked God from the depths of his heart for having caused him, unworthy wretch that he was, to be so loved by a creature so innocent” (p.769).

Language – Roughly 6 uses of mild language, mostly used by author in his meandering,

Violence – We get a look at what it is like to live in the prison at Toulon and it is a sad how the prisoners were treated. Valjean goes on the run several times running away from Javert. In one instance he is captured by the Thenardiers and beaten. A man seeing Fantine, puts snow down her dress which leads to her becoming very sick. Fantine dies from hearing words that devastate her. Hugo mentions how soldiers died at Waterloo and were piled up. At the barricade, all the combatants die terrible deaths. Eponine dies in an effort to save Marius’s life. Marius believes that Valjean kills Javert, finds out later this is untrue. Javert commits suicide.

Innuendo – So, we get a brief look at Fantine’s life before she moves with Cosette. She falls in love with Tholomyes a poet and she is thinking of marriage. Unfortunately he leaves her in the lurch with a child. Later on, it is mentioned that, as a last resort, Fantine becomes a prostitute to make ends meet. No details, but it is mentioned a several times throughout the book.

Conclusion –

Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals and I’m glad I read this giant book. Although, actually its exactly the same length as The Count of Monte Cristo, go figure. The story takes dark turns at times and it can be depressing just how far some of the characters go. Yet, it is not all dark, there are moments of self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and love. Even Javert begins to realize that people can change. Is it a commitment? Yes, you will have to set aside time to delve into this classic. However it is worth wading into.

Have you heard of Les Mis or read an adaption? Do you have a favorite song from the musical? Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Up Next – It is finally beginning to feel like summer and I’m in the mood for some lighter reading. I am starting The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Anna

Review of The Normal Christian Life

The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

Genre – Nonfiction, Christian

Series – No

Rating – G – Aimed at adults

Synopsis –

Nee walks us through different aspects in a Christian’s life with his focus being on the book of Romans. He dives into just how much the the blood and the Cross did for us as well as going from knowing to reckoning what Christ did. He includes a few stories from his own life to help elucidate certain points. His goal is that we would be wasted for the Lord.

My Thoughts –

It has taken me 5 months to slowly read though this book. Normally I don’t take that long, but I read this one chapter maybe every 2 weeks. To start, a lady at my church began a women’s study through this book back in December. So I began reading it then. Also, I don’t read much nonfiction especially related to Christian living. Many of the modern Christian living books have some interesting beliefs thrown in so I tend to steer clear. Before that I had never even heard of this book, but what a deep and engaging book it turned out it be!

Nee starts off discussing the blood of Christ and why we need it. “We need forgiveness for the sins we have committed, lest we come under judgment; and they are forgiven, not because God overlooks what we have done but because he sees the Blood.” (p. 7). He then goes though Romans 6, 7, & 8 discussing 4 conditions: Knowing, Reckoning, Presenting ourselves to God, & Walking in the Spirit.

Nee really drives home how we died with Christ and I found this section eye opening as I hadn’t really thought of that verse in this way. He references Romans 6:6,8 and delves into how can you know, “whereas you were crucified on the selfsame cross a he, for you were in him when he died. How can you know? You can know for the one sufficient reason that God has said so.” (p.45). He brings it home by discussing the first Adam and how Christ was the last Adam.

Quotes:

“Grace means that God does something for me; law means I do something for God” ( p. 156)

“deliverance from the law implies that he exempts me from doing it, and that in grace he does it himself.” ( p. 156).

“Having at last reached the point of utter despair in ourselves so that we cease even to try, we put our trust in the Lord to manifest his resurrection life in us.” (p. 166).

“As long as we are trying to do anything, he can do nothing. It is because of our trying that we fail and fail and fail. ” (p. 167).

Conclusion –

Nee goes deep into several chapters in Romans as well Genesis. He raised up several points that led me to think about where I stood in my walk with Christ. I loved that he used Scripture to support Scripture. A good book to read slowly, and not rush though. I’d highly recommend it!

Up Next – I started Les Miserables and am about half way though. So will be working on that. Hoping to finish in about a week.

Over to you what have you been reading lately? Have any favorite nonfiction? Have you read this book?

Anna

Review for Beowolf

Beowolf

Author unknown, translated by Seamus Heaney

Genre – Medieval Epic, Fiction, Poem

Series – No

Rating – PG- for battles with monsters

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

We are given a glimpse into the history of two nations: the Geats, & the Danes. The Danish kingdom is under attack by a monster named Grendel. Their plight has been spread far and wide. King Hrothgar cannot protect his people. A noble Geat warrior comes to lend a hand to Hrothgar. Hrothgar welcomes him to Denmark and tells him of monster. His name, Beowolf. He proceeds to battle the beast with his bare hands. Will Beowolf be able to conquer Grendel?

My Thoughts –

I went into this book with a little trepidation as as I knew it was a poem and lengthy. However, Beowolf surprised me! I had heard the gist of the story though a podcast I listen to called Myths & Legends. The book goes into greater detail behind the history of these two nations as well as some back story into the Swedes. You get three epic battles that Beowolf fights.

There are many heroic characters in this tale, although this is definitely more action led with fictional history thrown in. So we don’t really see any character development per say, but we get to know them a little. First, Hrothgar, King of the Danes and son of Halfdane. He is noble and goes from the frying pan into the fire. Hrothgar is an honest man and keeps his word. He is only man still sitting in his mead hall after Grendel’s nightly attacks. Then we get Beowolf who is an extraordinary warrior and above the average man. Yet, humble. I liked Beowolf quite a bit. We spend most of the book following him as he is the hero. Lastly, King Hygelac, King of the Geats. He is a bit more reserved. He didn’t send Beowolf and actually told him not to go assist the Danes. I didn’t really care for him, but he wasn’t really a bad character.

The plot revolves around the three fights: Grendel, His mother, and the dragon. Lots of fairy tales and legends revolve around sets of threes. Of the three fights, I personally found the fight with Grendel’s mom the most interesting.

confused where are we GIF

Although really, how could a person swim underwater for half a day?? It just seemed a little absurd to me!

The dragon fight was cool too. Very Tolkienesque. I mean Tolkien did do a translation of Beowolf so he could have taken the idea of battling dragons and hidden gold. I know Tolkien was influenced by the Tale of the Volsungs.

I was surprised at how much Christianity impacted the author. There are many times where the characters prasise God or mentions creation. There is a great line about how the Almighty placed the stars. I’ll put it below. All of stories comes from the OT. No mentions of Jesus or the cross.

Quotes –

“The leader of the troop unlocked his word-hoard; the distinguished one delivered his answer” (p. 19) – this line had me laughing.

“. . .in his splendour He set the sun and the moon to be earth’s lamplight, lanterns for men” ( p. 9).

“May one so valiant and venturesome come unharmed through the clash of battle” (p. 21)

Language – None

Violence – Nothing graphic or gratuitous. Beowolf wrestles with Grendel and somehow pops his arms off. Grendel kills many Danes. His mom eats someone and beats up Beowolf. The dragon pillages and burns villages. He mortally wounds Beowolf.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Beowolf is a fascinating story filled withe feasts, battles, and wars fought. It is similar to Sir Gwain and the Green Knight. Both are poems that depict heroes. Also its shorter then I had expected. Half of my copy was in Old English so really only a little over 100 pages. More readable then I had imagined, but not something I will be rereading over and over. Did I like it? Well, I really liked sections of it.

Up Next – After Beowolf, I just finished Watcher by A. J. Everly. Now I think I’m going to give Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater a try.

Over to you guys: Have you read Beowolf? Have any favorite legends?

Anna

Review for The Scandalous sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Genre – Coming-of-age, Mystery, England

Series – No

Rating – PG for discussions about death, poison, and murder

Age Range – Middle-grade or YA

Synopsis –

The 7 girls who attend St. Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies have been sent there to become proper young ladies. During their Sunday night supper with their headmistress Constance Plackett and her brother Mr. Godding, a queer thing takes place. Both Mrs. Plackett and Mr. Godding suddenly collapse and die at the table. So Smooth Kitty, the ringleader of the girls, hatches a plan to cover up their mysterious deaths and continue living at the school. Things begin to go awry when people begin visiting the school to celebrate Mr. Godding’s birthday. What will they do? Will the girls cave in and be forced to tell the truth? Who is the murderer behind all this?

My Thoughts –

What a fun & charming book!! Going into the book, I knew nothing about the plot and so was pleasantly surprised. It had been on my list, but I’d forgotten what led me to put it on there. I loved seeing the girls band together to try to solve the murders as well as keep the authorities at bay. Also, loved the setting – England 1890. What a fun time frame!

Each of the young ladies has a different skill set and personality. Most of the book is told from Kitty’s perspective. Personally, I liked Pocked Louise and Stout Alice much better! Seeing Stout Alice impersonate Mrs. Plackett was hilarious and I’m surprised they pulled it off for so long. 🙂 Of the girls, Kitty was my least favorite. While she was good at coming up with plans, I didn’t care for how high and mighty she could be at times.

The author does a great job keeping this light and humorous, despite being a murder mystery. They are constantly coming up with stories trying to cover up the bodies they buried under a cherry tree. My descriptions make it sound worse then it is. All in all I found myself chuckling at all their antics. Berry also adds a few twists near the end that left me guessing to figure out who was the culprit.

Now there is a bit of feminism thrown in the story, which was a bit off putting.

Quotes –

“The rosy sunset made even the mud of Farmer Butt’s vast acres of meadow land blaze with heavenly glory as far as the eye could see” (p. 12).

“She who opposed my scientific interests so strenuously is now the subject of my experiment” (p. 112).

“How is it possible to forget a present? Kitty made a face at her. If you recall, we had cooling corpses on our minds at the time.” (p. 124).

Language – None

Violence – Both Mrs. Plackett and Mr. Godding are poisoned by cyanide. Then the culprit tries to murder the pretend Mrs. Plackett with cyanide again and instead kills Admiral Lockwood by mistake. Also, the murder sneaks in, poisons the dog and steals some of the the girls belongings.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

If you are in the mood for a light easy read, this is good choice. I know its MG, but as an adult I enjoyed it quite a bit. I have found that many MG authors write wonderful and intriguing books often better then some YA or adult books out there. Also, they tend to be fairly clean. Berry does a great job creating a fun mystery that is engaging and keeps you interested in the characters.

Up next – I’m finishing up Beowolf. I had listened to a podcast that told the outline to the story and made me curious to read it myself. So far halfway through and liking it. After that I’m not sure.

How is your May going? What have you been reading? Do you enjoy Middle-Grade fiction?

Anna

Review for I, Robot

I, Robot (Robot, #0.1)

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Genre – Science fiction, Futuristic,

Series – 1st book in the Robot series

Age Range – Adult

Rating – PG for mild language

Synopsis –

To start, this is a collection of short stories about how robots become progressively smarter then humans & just how do humans fit in this technological world. It’s seen through the lens of Dr. Susan Calvin who specializes in robot sciences. She is looking back at her life and is telling a reporter various incidents that either sparked better robots or led to their demise.

My Thoughts –

Well, I can now say I read this one. I hadn’t really read any science fiction with robots in it before, so I, Robot was my first. It was shorter then I had imagined, but fit the way the author wrote it. Each chapter focuses on a different robot and there are really only a few characters that routinely pop in and out.

Of the few characters that are in there, I really only somewhat liked Greg Powell & Mike Donovan. They had some humor to the few stories they are in. They make quite the duo. When trying to figure out what is wrong with Speedy, a robot to help them collect materials on Mars, they brainstorm different ideas. Eventually doing a sneaky approach to the 3 Robot laws to get Speedy back. I really didn’t care for Susan Calvin though. Maybe cause, of my worldview, I don’t agree with robots taking over human society and ruling over us. I just got really annoyed with her love for all things robot.

Of the short stories, I have to say the first one with Robbie was one of my favorites. He was a simple non-speaking robots who was a nurse maid to girl named Gloria. She spent a lot of time with him. Loved her dad and his clever plan to get Robbie back.

Despite my disagreement with some of Asimov’s ideas, he was a master storyteller. He knew how to keep the reader interest and wrote in an engaging way. I was surprised that I liked it more then I had thought I would. Each story involves a crisis caused or involving a robot that the characters have to resolve which became more complex as the robots got more upgrades and such.

Quote:

“We have: one, a robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human to come to harm” (p. 37).

Violence – None

Language – Infrequent mild language used by the human characters.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Honestly, it was odd, but not horrible. I found it interesting that he gave the robots 3 rules that must be obeyed. Each one revolved around protecting humans or the robot from destruction. Being a Christian, I didn’t necessarily agree with some of the character’s choices and the whole thing against those who don’t trust robots. Kind of scary cause I can see us in the not so distant future using more AI technology.

Side Note – I also finished Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han. A good conclusion to the trilogy.

Up next – I will finish up The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place which I am thoroughly enjoying!!

What have you been reading lately? Happy May!

Anna