The Shameful Book Club: 1984 by George Orwell for March

 

1984-book-coverI don’t know what I expected from this book, and honestly I’m not sure how I feel now that I’ve read it. I think this has been made clear by my delay in writing up this post. The dystopians I’m used to usually involve teens and slick latex jumpsuits. And many of them have some empowerment and optimism attached to their plots, even when the price is high. When 1984 sales spiked after the election, I was excited to read it for my Shameful Book Club March read, which is science fiction. I should have known, however, that I was going to get something more complex and less glossy. Fair warning, this post is not graceful. My brain is all over the place on this book, and I’m definitely not educated enough on the book or the era it was written in to speak on it in any new or insightful ways, but these are my thoughts all the same.

Quick summary for those who don’t know: Winston is part of the Ingsoc (English Socialism) Party, an outer party member who lives in what was once London, now called Airstrip One, in the super state of Oceania. He works in the Ministry of Truth and his primary job is forging documents of all kind to ensure that everything on record consistently praises the Party and Big Brother (the ruler of the party who might not even be a real person). This is the Ingsoc idea of “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past,” which is totally true, and ALSO used as a banger Rage Against the Machine lyric. Man, I miss those guys right now. Winston knows he’s engaging in revisionist history, but he lacks the courage to do anything about it, at least when we first meet him he does. At this point in society’s downward spiral, if you step out of line at all or commit even the smallest act of “thought crime” (individual thought or free will), you will be swept up by the Thought Police and disappeared. You’re constantly being watched and brainwashed by the telescreens that have a dominating presence in every room in every building, pumping out propaganda and recording your every move. Sounds familiar, right?

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The Shameful Book Club: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

220px-Outlander-1991_1st_Edition_coverWhat a surprise! I’m behind on my posting. February was romance, because I am a walking cliche. I decided on Outlander because I really enjoyed the show, and everyone keeps gifting me copies of the book. And rightly so, the book seems to have everything I love in it: time travel, Scotland, historical fiction, hot Scots, some light witchcraft, castles, sexy-times, everything! And yet, I was really disappointed. I don’t want to enrage my many friends who love this series, but I honestly don’t see what everyone else sees in it. If you would like to enlighten me, I encourage you to do so in the comments.

At first, I was pretty excited. I loved the setting, the magick, the time travel, and the characters. The show is such a good time, and my mom and I really had fun watching season one together with some red wine! I thought perhaps the book would offer the same thrills, but I can safely say that this is one of those times where the adaptation is better than the book. At least for me. But it didn’t start all bad! The beginning of the book was very strong. Claire was incredibly interesting, and I really liked her agency and attitude. It was intriguing to follow a woman who had just been through a war — who had served as a nurse and saw all kinds of horror — as she tried to reacclimate herself to life as a woman in “polite” society. What would she do now? Where was her place? And I was especially interested in her relationship with Frank, having spent most of their married life apart and under extreme stress due to the war. I want that book…the book where Claire and Frank put their marriage back together. Instead, Outlander is like the exact opposite. It’s a woman leaving her very excellent husband for some man-child.

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The Shameful Book Club: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

img_4205January sucks. It’s cold, everyone is fat and bloated from the holidays, there’s serious financial regret going on, and maybe you decided to stop talking to you uncle for the foreseeable future. That’s why I wanted to make January the month for humor. This January was SUPER hard, ahem, and so I was very grateful for this month’s humorous Shameful Book Club read. The Princess Bride, the film, was a staple in my home growing up. It is one of my all-time favorite movies, and most of the people I know have seen it just as many times as I have. A true classic! And I had heard so much about the book, but of course, never read it. Well, I am super glad I finally did.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. The format of it is confusing, and I know people who were so frustrated by it that they actually gave up reading it all together. Why? Well because for a while you can’t really tell if the book is completely fiction or if it’s partly true or entirely true or what have you. If you know me, you know I love this shit. Long-con deception! I frequently tell people that I want my wedding to be so confusing, people walk out unsure if I actually got married or not. So for me, this was two thumbs up. But then there is the constant interrupting, which also bothers a lot of people.

Let me explain, no that would take too long, let me sum up (GET IT I QUOTED THE BOOK): Goldman starts the book talking about his experience with the original Princess Bride manuscript and his father’s interpretation of it. He then goes on to present The Princess Bride in the abridged format that his father used to tell him as a kid, constantly interrupting the story to inject his own interpretations or stories about his father’s readings and his reactions, etc. This make for a very confusing situation for people who don’t know that The Princess Bride is not and never was a real manuscript or book about the history of a far-off European country. That should have been everyone’s first clue: there is no such place as Florin. But hey, there are people who still think the world is flat, so who am I to assume these things. Some of my friends also did not enjoy the tonal shift that occurs sometimes during these interruptions. The style is definitely weird.

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The Shameful Book Club: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

December’s genre is mystery, my personal favorite. I paired it up with December because it’s usually a cold and stressful time with the holidays and the winter and such, so I figured I should be allowed to treat myself to my favorite genre in the midst of unpleasantness. I picked The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because it is arguably Agatha Christie’s best novel, and I, as a massive Christie fan, had not yet read it. I actually haven’t read as much Christie as one would think. I can count on one had the number of novels and novella’s I’ve tackled, so I personally find that rather shameful.

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Me and a real cool dude on Halloween. I am Agatha Christie, holding her book Halowe’en Party, at a Halloween party.

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Annd a close up. The only thing I can explain in this picture is that I deliberately drew age lines on my face so I look old.

I was very excited to finally get to Ackroyd. I’ve seen it appear on tons of lists like “Top 5 Biggest Twist Endings of All Time” and “Novels That Will Make Your Head Spin So Hard It Will Pop Right Off You’ve Been Warned”. And a coworker of mine, who actually hates this kind of old-school Scooby Doo novel, told me she really enjoyed Ackroyd because of it’s unique twist. I was very successful in avoiding spoilers and could not wait to try to guess who committed the crime, which I did at around page 133. I was very proud of myself.

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The Shameful Book Club: Anne of Green Gables

I’m a bit behind on my reading challenge (what a surprise), but November was Young Adult month and I decided to go with Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I have lied so viciously about this book and series. I grew up loving the Megan Follows miniseries, and when they announced a new one in production I got very excited! I bill myself as a huge fan of AoGG, and yet I have never read a single book.

I did actually own the first book in the series for most of my life (much like I Capture the Castle), which makes all of this even worse. When I picked that copy up to dive in, I saw exactly how far I had gotten the first time I tried to read it. I also noticed my wonderful John Hancock on the cover page, which I can tell based on my handwriting evolution that I was in maybe fifth or sixth grade when I got this book. That would have been the best time for me to read it, I think. But nope.

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I gave up on page 5.

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The Shameful Book Club: Pet Sematary

stephenkingpetsemataryI have not read nearly as much Stephen King as I like to let on, and I am truly the one who suffers. With each King novel I read, the more in awe I become of his writing. While he usually rides that fine line between fluff horror and well-crafted literature, I know that my opinion of his work will stay firmly in the later camp after reading Pet Sematary. This books IS a fluffy horror, but it is so well written and paced that I felt like I was reading something important and profound. Honestly, Pet Sematary is important and profound.

King has told the story many times of how he came to write (and almost not publish) this influential work. When he was younger and living on a rural Maine road much like the one the family lives on in the novel, King watched in horror as his young toddler son almost ran right into the road as a huge truck rumbled by. This close call prompted him to think about what could have happened, and the result was a grisly and painful story about life, death, and grief.

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The Shameful Book Club: I Capture the Castle

img_3609I’m back from the horrific depths of grad school! One of the most exciting things about finally being done with school is that I can now read for fun again. What makes this frustrating is that I work in a library and am overwhelmed by the fact that I can take home as many books as I want. I cannot read 28 books at the same time, and yet I have 28 books checked out right now. I’m glad to be back working on the Shameful Book Club because it gives me some focus and drive.

Just as a reminder (it’s been so long), the Shameful Book Club is an attempt by me to come clean about many books I have lied about reading. I’ve assigned a genre for each month of the year and when that month arrives I pick a book that I have lied about reading in my past, read it, and then write about it. September’s genre is “classics”, whatever that means.

I first became enthusiastic about I Capture the Castle after watching the wonderful film adaptation as a young teen. My mom did what any good librarian would do and gifted me a copy of the classic novel by Dodie Smith, who also wrote The One Hundred and One Dalmatians. I got very excited and started to read it, only to abandon it for some ungodly reason. I’m sure the demands of being a super rad high schooler got in the way of reading legit literature and bettering my soul. One this is for damn sure, I would have been a lot better off as a youth if I had only read I Capture the Castle at 15 rather than worrying about “coolness” and “college” and “boys” and “black eye makeup”. This book is a damn education. Every time I picked it up I felt like my soul was getting a hug. The writing is so effortless and yet incredibly impactful. You don’t need to strain or push yourself to read it, you’re actually excited to carve out time for it.

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The Shameful Book Club: The Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

journey_to_the_center_of_the_earth___book_cover_by_twodeeweaver-d6okbn1August’s adventure was Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, and an adventure it was not. Granted, the book was published in the 1860s, and at that time what was considered “thrilling” had a pretty low bar, but this was downright boring. I feel sort of silly because I was expecting something more like the classic film adaptation, which is incredibly different. The characters change nationality and grow drastically in number, a rival team of explorers threatens the heroes of the story, and there are many more life or death situations and outrageous discoveries. Compared to the film, Jules Verne’s adventurous trek reads like the minutes to a board meeting at a financial firm.

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The Shameful Book Club: July’s Crime is the Killing Floor by Lee Child

New format time! I’m revamping the Shameful Book Club starting this month to make it simpler and less time consuming in order for me to try to maintain it while in school. July’s genre is and will always be CRIME!! If you’ve seen Spike Lee’s masterpiece Do The Right Thing, you know the heat can bring out all the bad behavior and angry feelings even in the best of us. And if you haven’t seen Do The Right Thing you absolutely should, because it’s unfortunately very very relevant. And if you have seen it, rewatch it.

11170621_oriIn honor of my move to Pittsburgh and my deep love of the Jack Reacher movie starring Tom Cruise (to all Reacher fans’ dismay), I thought I would start in on the beloved series by Lee Child with Killing Floor. This is not the book the movie was based on (that was One Shot), and Reacher is not actually in Pittsburgh for this story, but I enjoy making loose connections!

I got this one on Audible so I could listen while I packed, and I will say that the reader Dick Hill was amazing! Props to you, guy! He had great voices for everyone and did a very good job at catching Reacher’s sly sense of humor.

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The Shameful Book Club: Final Mystery Novel Update

It’s laughable how bad I am at this blogging thing, but here is my final mystery genre update for my Shameful Book Club! Before I get to the good stuff, I want to quickly mention that due to exciting life changes I’ll be switching up the format of this book club to one book a month. More on that at the bottom of the post, plus July’s read!

51VBtIu7KELAs I left it last time, I was already beginning the first of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad novels, In The Woods. This book had my mouth open the entire time I was reading it. I was completely absorbed in its world and characters. While I and everyone I know who’s read it loved this book, I can see how some people would feel differently. I could see how some people would actually hate it. The characters are incredibly unlikable, most of all our hero, Detective Rob Ryan.

Rob was part of a notorious group of kids who wandered into the woods outside of their village one day and never came back. Rob, whose legal name is Adam, was finally found covered in blood and in severe shock. His two best friends were never recovered. He remembers nothing from the event and rarely thinks about it, until a child’s murder brings him and his partner, Cassie Maddox, back to his home town.

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