The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Hitchhiker's Guide

“Don’t Panic.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Published October 12, 1979 by Pan Books
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comedy
Format: audio book; 5 hours 51 minutes (224 pages)
Also By This Author: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Thoughts:

I listened to an audiobook version of this beloved novel back in May when I took a road trip to Florida, and it definitely helped to pass the time! The version I listened to was narrated by Douglas Adams himself, which was quite a treat. Although I had never read this book before, I had seen the movie version starring Martin Freeman, but to be honest, I forgot most of what happens after the Earth is destroyed!

I haven’t read very many comedies, or science fiction novels for that matter, but I did enjoy the humor in this one. The tone took a little time to get used to, and some of the characters and situations were hard to keep my interest at times (although, to be fair, that could also have been because I was listening instead of reading for myself), but overall this novel was definitely enjoyable and very funny.

My favorite part of the story was probably the whole idea that there were multiple alien civilizations existing in the galaxy that Planet Earth was oblivious to. And the “legendary planet” Magrathea was pretty neat, too (you’ll have to read the book to find out why it’s so awesome).

Read This Book If:

…you like to laugh out loud.
…you have a vast imagination.
…you’re into science fiction.
…you get witty, sarcastic British humor.

Final Musings:

If you need a short book to entertain you, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is sure to do the trick. Just make sure you pay attention or you’ll end up seriously lost (I had to rewind the audiobook a couple of times while I was driving to figure out what was going on). And if you’re into comparing book-to-film adaptations, you can always treat yourself to this gem afterwards:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Marvin the robot: “Oh God I’m so depressed.”

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Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park

Because the history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Published January 1, 1990 by Ballantine Books
Science Fiction/Thriller
Format: paperback; 399 pages
Also From This Author: The Lost WorldTimelinePrey
Goodreads Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥

Synopsis:

A billionaire has created a technique to clone dinosaurs. From the DNA that his crack team of scientists extract, he is able to grow the dinosaurs in his laboratories and lock them away on an island behind electric fences, creating a sort of theme park. He asks a group of scientists from several different fields to come and view the park, but something goes terribly wrong when a worker on the island turns traitor and shuts down the power.

Thoughts:

As a dino-nerd who has been both terrified and enthralled by “terrible lizards” for most of her life, it still shocks me that I waited this long to read Michael Crichton’s thrilling classic Jurassic Park. I’ve even had a gently used paperback copy on my bookshelf for several years now, but it wasn’t until I saw Jurassic World recently that I finally desired to dive into the book that started it all. And dive I did, for I could not put it down once I got past the few introductory chapters. This book kept me riveted until the very last page (literally) and all the things I love about Jurassic Park the film were only multiplied by the novel.

The voices of the characters are so clear that it was effortless to hear them debating back and forth across the page. Ian Malcolm’s philosophical rants are twice as long yet much deeper than they are in the film, and John Hammond, while stubborn and slow to see the true failure of his endeavors on screen, is impossibly hard-headed (and might I add hard-hearted) in the novel. And Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler are still my heroes :)

I loved the clear black and white themes running through Crichton’s book as well. They give you so much to think about that my mind was still pondering over everything days after I finished the book. I even went and bought the sequel the next day! Although, I’m saving it for my vacation next week ;)

Read This Book If:

…you love dinosaurs! (or are terrified by them)
…you are looking for a book to keep you on the edge of your seat up until the very last page.
…you enjoy light science fiction and thrillers.
…you’re longing for a book that makes you think and feel.

Final Musings:

I use this phrase very rarely, but Jurassic Park is a must-read for anyone who has watched the movie(s) and longed for more. The film has of course strayed from the novel in some ways, but the general themes and diatribes remain genuine. You will not be disappointed by Michael Crichton’s most famous thriller!

You know, at times like this one feels, well, perhaps extinct animals should be left extinct.

The Classics Club Monthly Meme #31: Modern Classics

classics

I’m finally making time to answer The Classics Club’s Monthly Meme! This one sounded really interesting:

What about modern classics? Pick a book published since 2000 and say why you think it will be considered as a “classic” in the future.

This was a tough question for me to answer for two reasons: 1) the word “classic” means something different to most people (some people consider books older than 100 years classics, while others define classics as books that have had a fundamental impact on culture and literature); and 2) an example of a modern classic came to me so quickly I thought it was too cliche of an answer. But I’m going with it anyway because I sincerely think it will still be regarded as a classic to future generations of readers.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter

I’m cheating a bit because the first book was published pre-2000, but the last one wasn’t released until 2007 so it can still be considered at 21st century classic.

Why do I think Harry Potter will be labeled a classic in the future?

  • It persuaded a revival of reading. I know of people who do not naturally like to read, but they have read and enjoyed Harry Potter and have even desired to read other books afterwards. (Yay for converting people into readers!)
  • It has already been taught in schools. Isn’t that one of the requirements for a book to be considered a “canon”? I was always so jealous of my university friends who took lit classes that had Harry Potter on the syllabus.
  • Its themes are timeless. Harry Potter has similar themes to The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, two series that are also considered classics.
  • It has influenced a number of other writers and their works. Some of these authors include Christopher Paolini (Eragon) and Daniel Handler (A Series of Unfortunate Events). (Which works has J.K. Rowling listed as “probable influences” for Harry Potter? The Illiad, The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, Emma, and The Sword in the Stone.)

Do you think Harry Potter will be considered a classic in 25-50 years? What other books do you think are or should be considered modern classics?

Voyage au Centre de la Terre by Jules Verne (and Crossing Something Off My Bucket List)

julesverne

“As long as the heart beats, as long as body and soul keep together, I cannot admit that any creature endowed with a will has need to despair of life.”

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Published 1864 by Pierre Jules Hetzel
Classics/French/Adventure
Format: paperback; 338 pages
Also By This Author: Around the World in Eighty Days, From the Earth to the Moon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.

Thoughts:

You may be wondering why I used the original French title of Journey to the Center of the Earth in the blog title…that’s because I read this book in French! If you’ve been to my blog before, you may be familiar with my list of 25 things to do for my 25th year. #3 on that list was to “read an entire book in French.” So I can now cross that off!

It wasn’t easy–the French language has a special past tense that is only used in books or in storytelling, which makes it really hard to learn because you’ll hardly ever have the need to use it in a conversation. To be honest, I did not understand everything that goes on in this book, but I picked Jules Verne to read because 1) French Classics are easier to understand than English classics because the French language has barely changed over the centuries, 2) Classic novels have more grammatically correct dialogue between characters as opposed to modern novels, and 3) Jules Verne writes suspenseful and captivating adventure novels that are easy to follow and visualize.

On to the book! The only other Verne novel I’ve read before Journey to the Center of the Earth was Around the World in Eighty Days, which I really enjoyed. Verne’s characters are so particular and unique and the adventures they go on are always full of suspense and those “this is our last hope” type of scenes so that you’ll never be bored while reading one of his novels. Professor Lidenbrock is ever persistent and hopeful during this life-threatening journey while his nephew, Axel, often exclaims that all hope is lost and the group is sure to perish.

As always, true to Verne’s captivating writing style, there is a twist at the end of Journey to the Center of the Earth that anyone who has previously read Verne will be expecting to discover :)

Read This Book If…:

…you love an adventure!
…you’re into science fiction books, especially those written by the fathers of sci-fi.
…you crave a book that will make you both laugh out loud and turn the pages in suspense.
…you’re looking for a new unforgettable adventure to experience.

“Was I to believe him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the center of this massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius? Where did truth stop? Where did error begin?”

Final Musings:

If you’ve never read a novel by Jules Verne, I would suggest Journey to the Center of the Earth as a good starting point, although I preferred Around the World in Eighty Days (really though, any Verne book is a good book to read). Full of quirky characters, daring adventures, and spectacular imagery, Journey to the Center of the Earth is definitely a classic that deserves its masterpiece label.

Alice in Wonderland: Am I the only one who…

cheshire-cat-10

“We’re all mad here.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Published Nov 1865/1871 by Macmillan
Classic/Young Adult
Format: e-book; 161 pages
Also From This Author: The Hunting of the Snark, Jabberwocky
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 3/5

…did not enjoy this book? I have only ever heard good things about Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (I read them both), but try as I might, I could not get into them. I’m familiar with the story, because I own and love both Disney movie versions, so I automatically assumed that I would love the novel as well. I was sadly disappointed.

Currently I am fighting a cold, so I don’t have the creative energy to eloquently pen all of my opinions on Alice and her…strange…dreams, so allow me to sum them all up in the ever reliable Pros and Cons format!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass:

Pros: My favorite character, and perhaps the only one who never annoyed me, was the quizzical Cheshire Cat. I would have loved to see more appearances (and disappearances and reappearances) by him! I think the reason I loved him so much is because the Cheshire Cat is the most reasonable out of all the Wonderland creatures. The things he said actually did make sense.

Another character who amused me was of course the ever-popular Mad Hatter. Who doesn’t love him? I would have also appreciated more scenes with him, so I thank Tim Burton for fulfilling that desire in his 2010 film.

Fortunately, the live flowers weren’t quite as annoying in the novel as they are in the animated movie. Along with the little skit about the Walrus and the Carpenter, the live flowers bit is my least favorite scene in the movie.

Cons: Parts of this book honestly gave me a headache, mainly because it was really hard to follow. It’s like reading about a dream someone had after taking one too many Benadryl, which is actually probably why a lot of people like this story. I understand its uniqueness as a work of literature and I appreciate Carroll’s ability to break conventionality, but I have come to realize that books written in this type of nonsensical format are not my cup of tea. I might be inclined to put Alice on the same bookshelf as Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, although if I had to choose between the two of them, I’d much rather read Alice.

Another con was that so many of the characters drove me insane. Alice, for one…I could not connect or relate to her on any level. And the Red Queen was undoubtedly my least favorite (main) character, although that’s not surprising to me since she’s also my least favorite character in the animated movie as well (Helena Bonham Carter makes her more likeable in the live-action film, at least in my opinion). Why was she in the story so much?

Other characters I did not appreciate were the White Queen and the White Knight, whom I really did try to like! Mainly because I pitied his clumsiness.

Quotes:

Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way. [Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland chapter 1]

  • Love this. Let’s all be always expecting the unexpected :)

“It’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!” [Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland chapter 4]

  • There was a nice group of little quotes like this one that helped me like the novel in some ways.

Suddenly, a footman in livery came running out of the wood–(she considered him to be a footman because he was in livery: otherwise, judging by his face only, she would have called him a fish)… [Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland chapter 6]

  • There is no significance in this quote other than the fact that it literally made me laugh out loud.

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” [Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 6]

  • Ain’t that the truth, Mr. Cheshire Cat.

“Where do you come from?” said the Red Queen. “And where are you going?” [Through the Looking Glass, chapter 2]

  • After reading this line, the lyrics to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” were stuck in my head for a while…thanks to a recent episode of The New Girl (sorry! I love when my worlds collide!)

Closing Thoughts:

I know that I may have been a bit all over the place with this post, but it’s about Alice in Wonderland so anything goes! Honestly, it wasn’t the worst book I have read (I rated it 3/5 stars on Goodreads), but it was a big disappointment for me. That’s what happens sometimes when you set your expectations high. I should have approached it like I did Jane Eyre, which I thought I would hate and now it’s one of my favorite novels.

Jane Austen’s Emma

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I wish all books were this pretty!

Emma by Jane Austen
Published Dec 1815 by John Murray
Classic/Romance
Format: e-book; 456 pages
Also From This Author: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

This summer I was on a Jane Austen spree; I read Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and finally Emma. It was my first time reading it, although I was already familiar with the story because of the 1996 film version (featuring the worst period-era wig ever, courtesy of Ewan McGregor).

churchill

Seriously, he looks like the Mad Hatter.

But I never really liked Emma as a character. She’s snobby, meddlesome, and rather immature (like when she gets upset at not being able to decline an invitation because she wasn’t even invited…ugh). However, after finally reading the novel I actually came to *like* Emma, or maybe I just really liked Mr. Knightley ;) His speech near the end was so sweet, and I love this little excerpt afterwards:

He had ridden home through the rain; and had walked up directly after dinner, to see how this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults, bore the discovery. (Chapter 49)

So there were great, swoon-worthy parts of the novel. But the worst, the worst part about Emma is the Box Hill picnic, when Emma maliciously makes fun of Miss Bates in front of all their friends. Because I had already seen the 1996 movie before reading the novel, I was dreading, absolutely dreading that chapter the entire time. And while I was watching the movie again after finishing the novel, I even muted the TV for a good minute and a half during that one excruciating part. There are a handful of books that contain chapters which I dread reading that much, but at least we are able to truly see Emma’s repentant heart afterwards.

Jane Austen’s novels frequently convey the motif of misunderstandings, and Emma is stock-full of them. She misunderstands the attentions and actions of Mr. Elton, Mr. Frank Churchill, and if that isn’t enough, Mr. Knightley as well. Clearly Emma does not possess an appropriate skill-set in order to be a successful matchmaker. Each of Emma’s misunderstandings add to the humor and drama of the plot, but they also help Emma to mature before the reader, and while I started the novel with the opinion of Emma being vain, selfish, and snobby, I ended it admiring Emma for her kind heartedness, compassion, and humility. There were two instances in which I loved Emma the most, the first being after Mr. Elton’s proposal, when Emma feels worse for her friend Harriet than she does for herself:

Every part of it brought pain and humiliation, of some sort or other; but, compared with the evil to Harriet, all was light; and she would gladly have submitted to feel yet more mistaken—more in error—more disgraced by mis-judgment, than she actually was, could the effects of her blunders have been confined to herself. (Chapter 16)

I absolutely admired her selflessness in this passage, and it added greatly to my sympathy for Emma in the second instance, near the end of the novel, when she suspects Mr. Knightley is about to confess his feelings for Harriet. At first Emma silences Mr. Knightley, but then, seeing how she has pained him, puts her duty as a friend over her own heartbreak, and pleads for Mr. Knightley to speak of anything he would like to. That must have taken immense courage.

I am very glad I gave Emma another chance. Even though I would not consider it my favorite Jane Austen novel, nor would I consider any of the characters my most favorite or least favorite, it was an enjoyable read with memorable themes and humorous indirect dialogue, without which I doubt I would have been able to laugh at or sympathize with our headstrong heroine.