7 Deadly Sins (of Reading) Meme

I saw this meme pop up on my friend Lynn’s blog recently, and thought it would be a fun one to take for a spin!

GREED – What is your most inexpensive book?

That’s hard, because I regularly go to the Library Warehouse Sale to buy books for 50 cents…  Here’s one, not actually the most inexpensive but the most jaw-dropping “it’s really that cheap?” purchase: A Window in Thrums by J. M. Barrie, 1897 edition, with the lovely handwritten inscription “For Grandmother from Mary Eunice, December 25th 1898,” sold online for the ridiculously low price of…$2.62.  !!!

I kind of feel like Greed should really ask about my most expensive book…which is a massive, two-volume set on my favorite artist, William Bouguereau, one volume of which is almost entirely images of his gorgeous paintings…and it cost me $300.  It was a moment of madness in a museum gift shop–but I’m pretty sure this is THE definitive book on his work.  And I haven’t regretted it yet!

Now I just need to muster up the courage or madness to drop another $300 (or so) on a signed J. M. Barrie.  Signed L. M. Montgomery, sadly, is FAR out of my price range.

WRATH – What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Edgar Rice Burroughs comes to mind.  I love reading his books–I have over fifty of them!  But I sigh a lot about his pathetic heroines, a few of his books have some pretty appalling racism in them, and after reading a biography…yeah, I’m pretty sure Burroughs and I could not have been friends.

GLUTTONY – What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?

I Want to Go Home! by Gordon Korman.  I think by the time I was twelve, I had read it twelve times–and it stayed just as funny.

SLOTH – What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

I neglected finishing Winston and Clementine, a collection of letters between Winston Churchill and his wife, for years.  And there’s no excuse, since I loved the first part that I read–then got distracted–and didn’t get back to it. But I finally got it read as part of my chunkster challenge last year.

PRIDE – What book do you talk most about to sound like an intellectual reader?

But I never name-drop books to sound intellectual… 😉  Actually, I really don’t, mostly because all my friends like fantasy and sci fi and we have too much shared reading experience to impress each other.  Although if I was going to name-drop, Les Miserables would probably be my best bet.

LUST – What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?

Give me a green-eyed book hero and I am lost.  Which is funny, because I don’t particularly look for that in actors or, you know, real life!  It’s strictly a book thing.  I also have kind of a thing for brooding heroes with hearts of gold (in books.  Ahem).

ENVY – What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

Yeah…I don’t know.  I have an Amazon wishlist, but nothing particularly jumps out as MORE desired than any other.  I’d actually really like the soundtrack of Once Upon a Forest, because I love the one song on the soundtrack that Michael Crawford sang but, um, I can’t quite bring myself to spend $25 for basically one song (well, three, I like two of the others…)  I’ll probably do it eventually, I’m just working up to it…but that’s not a book.  Though kind of on the subject, I’d be over the moon if someone gave me an autographed J. M. Barrie book!  And autographed L. M. Montgomery–I would be your best friend for life!

But I’ll feel friendly towards you too if you leave a comment with your answer to any of these questions! 🙂

Esmeralda of Notre Dame

Hunchback of Notre DameI’ve been working on intimidating books this year…and diving into shadowy mysteries and Gothic literature for RIP…so September was clearly the month for The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  I enjoyed it quite a lot–I had been thinking I might take a break and read something else in the middle.  Instead, I ended up being so engaged that I didn’t stop after all–even though I had the new Jacky Faber book arrive while I was reading (but that’s a topic for another review).

The copy I read mentions on the jacket flap that Hugo despised the title The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which only arrived for the English translation.  Hugo called it Notre Dame de Paris–1482.  Not so catchy, but more accurate.  The Hunchback is just one member of an ensemble cast, and if I was going to pick one character as the lead, it would have to be the gypsy Esmeralda–hence the title of this post!  Because it really is centered around Esmeralda…and the men around her.

After my experience with Les Mis, I felt comfortable skipping or skimming when Hugo seemed to be off-plot, which happened a lot in the first hundred or so pages.  In fact, the main character of the first section of the book (if there even is one), is Pierre Gringoire, a destitute poet, and the story didn’t really pick up for me until he reached the Court of Miracles, where live the gypsies and vagabonds of Paris.

This is one of those books that’s worth sticking with, though, as it really does improve as it goes (with a few side diversions into history or cultural background…but that’s Hugo).  Gringoire has an interesting adventure or two, then disappears for most of the book as we finally focus on beautiful Esmeralda, terrifyingly sinister Frollo, sad hunchback Quasimodo, and surprisingly awful Phoebus.  For all the cultural weight and the number of pages, it’s essentially a story of unrequited love: Frollo wants Esmeralda who wants Phoebus who doesn’t value her–and no one wants Quasimodo, who was struck to his core by one act of kindness Esmeralda showed him.

Esmeralda is the center of the story, in that all the other characters circle around her and the plot is mostly driven by how they feel about her.  I couldn’t get much sense of Esmeralda herself, though.  She’s something of a will o’ the wisp, always flitting about but we don’t get into her head much.  She almost irritatingly enamored of Phoebus, and it’s a shame that that becomes such a driving part of her character.  She could be fascinating, as an independent woman who makes her own way in the world, on her own terms.  In a sense Fantine of Les Mis is independent, but her life fell apart; Esmeralda is actually getting along fine.  We don’t get much of that, though.

I was also rather disappointed by the lack of relationship between Esmeralda and Quasimodo.  She does show him kindness once in an extreme situation, but later on she’s still deeply uncomfortable around him.  Oh well, I should have known Disney would make it all rosier!

And on that subject–for a man named after the Sungod, Phoebus was horrible!  I deeply missed Disney’s courageous, noble captain, when Hugo gives us instead a philandering cad who can’t actually remember Esmeralda’s name…

This may be weird, but I think I was most fascinated here by Frollo.  Hugo’s heroine may have left a bit to be desired, but you can trust him to provide a complex villain.  It shouldn’t be surprising that we descend into the depths of his sordid obsession and twisted desire for Esmeralda.  I mean, even Disney didn’t manage to clean that up entirely!  I was more surprised by how openly sordid and at times sensual the book was, considering the time of the writing…maybe I’m just used to restrained British Classics, and it’s different when the French were writing them?  🙂

So how about the not-actually-title-character?  Quasimodo reminded me SO much of Leroux’s Phantom.  And I think that was just me and my particular, um, interests.  Hugo’s Quasimodo is dark, at times hostile, but also coming from a place of deep sadness.  His hostility towards the world is founded on the world’s rejection of him and that makes me feel so very bad for him.  I love his love for the cathedral, and I was thrilled to see a line where he’s talking to his favorite gargoyle statue…and it’s heartbreaking that that line is, “Why can’t I too be made of stone?”  Sad sad sad.

And he’s also like Leroux’s Phantom in that I think they both had authors who didn’t realize what they’d created.  Leroux spent far more pages on Raoul than he did on the much more interesting Phantom, and Hugo could have given us more of Quasimodo and less of some others…but what we got was very good.

This is only about half as long as Les Mis (so, 500 pages…) and some parts require a bit of wading, but on the whole I thought it was an excellent, very readable story with extremely engaging characters–even if some were less likable than I had hoped!  Once the book gets into its stride, it’s also hugely exciting.  I read the last hundred pages straight-through.  And, of course, the ending is deeply tragic.

I’ll probably still watch the Disney movie more often than I’ll read Hugo 🙂 …but I did thoroughly enjoy reading the original.

Other reviews:
My Turn to Talk
The Yellow-Haired Reviewer
A Good Stopping Point
Anyone else?

Buy it here: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Saturday Snapshot: Quasimodo’s View of Paris

I’ve been reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo this week, so naturally I have the cathedral on the brain.  I already shared some photos in a previous Saturday Snapshot, though, so I had to come up with a new angle…like the view.

Notre Dame Views (2)The Seine and the Eiffel Tower, from one of Notre Dame’s towers.  I got lots of pictures of the Eiffel Tower and walked under it–I didn’t go up in it, because I was already planning to get the view from Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Views (3)This may look like a complete muddle of rooftops, but look for the gold statues near the center, with the blue dome behind them.  That’s the Opera Garnier, and what photography doesn’t manage to capture is how gloriously those statues seem to shine, even from a distance, even on a cloudy day.

Notre Dame Views (1)And this is not a view from the towers, but it is on a street a block away…  I wonder what Victor Hugo would think?

Visit West Metro Mommy for more Saturday Snapshots.  Have a great weekend!

What Are You Reading, Spooky September Edition

What Are You Reading SpookyI’ve begun properly plunging into spooky reads for Readers Imbibing Peril, and you can expect the reviews to start multiplying over the next few weeks!  I reread Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books which I madly love, and collected several more dark and shadowy tales from the library.

I recently finished A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, a rather dark and, well, grim retelling of some more obscure Brothers Grimm tales.  Next, I’m midway through Doll Bones by Holly Black, which has been decidedly creepy so far!  I’m also reading a play version of The Phantom of the Opera–not the Webber one, but a different musical.  It was made into the Charles Dance miniseries, but without the songs, so I was curious to see the original script.

And then I have my big intimidating book of the month, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  It’s actually relatively short, compared to Hugo’s Les Miserables…though most books are “short” relative to Les Mis!

Meanwhile on the screen, I’ve been indulging in lots of Hitchcock, continuing the spooky mood!

Have a wonderful weekend–and let me know what you’re reading.  🙂

What Are You Reading, RIP Edition

What Are You Reading RIPThis past week saw the launch of the latest reading challenge from Carl at Stainless Steep Droppings: the Readers Imbibing Peril autumn reading experience.  This one focuses on the darker side of books, like mysteries, gothic and horror.  Read my launch post here.

I expect my reading to get a bit more shadowy in coming weeks…though not so much just yet, because I have to get some of my shadowy reads from the library still!

Right now I’m midway through The Professor by Charlotte Bronte–because it’s Charlotte Bronte and I madly love Jane Eyre.  So far, I’m not quite sure if I like The Professor, but I like reading it…if that makes any sense!  There’s just something about how Bronte puts words together, and I can’t explain it beyond that.  I’m also reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  It’s a little heavy on the science but is still very readable and has really interesting insights, particularly about how society tends to favor the extrovert ideal…which may not be the right fit for all of us who like curling up alone with books!

Next up I plan to reread the wonderful, amazing, incredible The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, to be followed by its sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.  This, of course, is to prepare for the release of Book Three next month: The Girl Who Soared Above Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.  I LOVE those titles!!  I’m counting these books for RIP too, with a creepy autumn scene in the first and lots of shadows in the second.

If it arrives soon enough from my library, I think I’ll read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame in between the two Fairyland books.  I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I went to Notre Dame to see Quasi’s gargoyles–and even more since reading Les Miserables.  It’s another good one for RIP too, and for my goal to read more long and intimidating books!

A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde (new) and The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (reread) are a couple I have on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to get to–and which ought to keep me busy if I finish the others while still waiting on the rest on my library’s hold list.

Speaking of which–I’m up to #44 in line for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  I was #125 when I joined the list, and it’s since grown to 266…not that I’m keeping track or anything.

So much for me!  Visit Book Journey for other What Are You Reading posts.  And…what are you reading?