To Continue? Or Not To Continue?

…that is the question.

No, dear readers, I’m not talking whether to continue writing this blog or not. I’m talking about a book I checked out of the library last week.

Do I like this book? Or don’t I? That is (also) the question.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ve probably gathered I’m a fast reader. I actually have to force myself to slow down and enjoy books sometimes, as opposed to completely inhaling them. That’s why it’s surprising that this book, The Madagaskar Plan by Guy Saville, is taking me forever to get through. I’ve had it for a whole five days now and I’m maybe a third of the way through, if that.

It’s odd because though I don’t dislike the book, I also don’t love it. I feel completely neutral about it. It is an odd book because though it’s supposed to be a sequel to The Afrika Reich, which I also read, you don’t really need to have read the first book to read this book.

I have yet to decide whether to finish it or not. I keep reading bits and pieces of it sporadically. By the time I do decide whether it’s worth finishing, I’ll probably already be done and there won’t be a decision to make then.


Horatio Hornblower

Back in the day—circa 2003—I discovered a book series by Patrick O’Brian. It is called the Aubrey-Maturin series, named after the main character, a British Navy captain in the Napoleonic era and his good friend, the ship’s doctor. I first became aware of said series after seeing an excellent movie based on these novels. The movie is Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. It’s so much better than the drivel they pass off as movies nowadays (but that is a subject for another blog post).

Anyway, I spent about two years reading all twenty of the Aubrey-Matruin novels (I never did get a chance to read the unfinished twenty-first book, sadly enough). They weren’t easy to get through, as the writing can be dense and confusing, but I persevered. By the time I finished, I was a bit tired of Patrick O’Brian’s writing style, but I had developed a lifelong love of the Napoleonic era.

The whole time I was reading the Patrick O’Brian books, I kept seeing reference to a series by C.S. Forester about a character named Horatio Hornblower, also a Royal Navy captain during the Napoleonic Wars. Forester’s books were written before O’Brian’s and were allegedly the inspiration for the Aubrey-Maturin saga. Alas, I took a long break from fiction about the Napoleonic era and didn’t get a chance to check out C.S. Forester’s books—until now.

Dear readers, these books are fantastic! I really love them. I’ve devoured four of them already. The one I just finished today, Commodore Hornblower, even has the advantage of taking place in Russia for most of the book, which is great. And this is the Russian Empire, which as you may know, is basically my favorite thing ever. Forester’s writing is a lot less turgid than O’Brian’s, which makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. I like the character development and all the nautical descriptions and historical delights and all the other goodies present in this series. Seriously, these books are great fun to read.

After I schedule this post to be published, I think I’m going to go start on the next book in the series. See you in a little while—I’ll be traveling at sea (vicariously) as I read!

Review: Brandenburg

Brandenburg by Glenn Meade
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I can’t say I really enjoyed this book, to be honest. First off, the writing style and use of language drove me insane. One thing I kept encountering were sentences like, “Tell me what you intend doing.” (That’s one’s from page 360 of the edition I read.) While this may be correct in British English, it sounds so jarringly wrong to my ear that I kept getting annoyed by it.

The next issue was with the dialogue. It was so stilted and characters kept addressing each other by name. In general, people don’t actually use each other’s names a lot when they speak, which is why beginner writers are usually cautioned against this. Apparently whoever edited this book hasn’t heard of that rule before.

Warning: some spoilers ahead!

Now, for the plot-related issues. The plot started off really interesting. I liked the first bit that took place in Paraguay. But then it just got boring, mainly because I didn’t really like or care about the main character, Joseph Volkmann. I get the idea he was supposed to be this somewhat troubled intelligence agent, but the author didn’t fully pull that off.

And don’t get me started on the utterly STUPID plot point involving Hitler’s son. First of all, there’s no real proof that Hitler and his niece, Geli Raubal, were actually romantically involved. Don’t get me wrong, I really hate Hitler and think he was evil, but I’ve never seen definitive proof of this. Eminent historian Ian Kershaw says there’s no proof one way or the other, and I agree with him on this. But I digress.

Anyway, there’s an entire plot point involving Hitler’s son, who was spirited out of Germany as a small child. He later returns and leads a neo-Nazi movement that—surprise, surprise—tries to take power in a (failed) putsch, just like his daddy did. At the end of the book, we have a lot of characters dead (including Hitler’s son and a Paraguayan journalist) and a lot of pointless screeds about how the left-wingers are going to save Germany from going Nazi again.

Seriously, this book is a bit long. Save your time and read something else. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. I was so disappointed in this one that I don’t know if I’m going to read the other Glenn Meade book I got from the library, The Romanov Conspiracy. (And anyone who knows me will know I’m a sucker for anything Russia- and Romanov-related. Something has to be pretty bad to make me contemplate passing up a book involving Russia and the Romanovs.)

View all my reviews

I Finished The Count of Monte Cristo

At approximately four o’clock this afternoon (give or take an hour, since I don’t remember exactly what the time was), I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I talked about my desire to read it last year and I’ve spent the last one-and-a-half months working on it, while reading some other stuff, too. It’s a heavy, complicated book so I needed some breaks now and then.

The final verdict is I loved it. I would highly recommend it—as long as you read the Robin Buss translation, which is the one I read. It’s the best one out there because it’s the most modern (the stilted Victorian language in the older ones is just not something you’ll want to deal with, trust me) and it has handy little footnotes. Dumas made reference to all sorts of random things: classical allusions that I assume an educated person in the nineteenth century would have known; stuff about life in the nineteenth century that you’d probably only know if you lived back then; and random weird stuff. The footnotes explain it all so you aren’t completely lost.

The ending was a bit surprising to me. Not so much the events themselves, but the message I feel the author was trying to send. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave any discussion of that out of this post.

I know the book is long, but it’s well worth the read. I usually read very quickly, so it was humbling to have to spend over a month reading something. I tried to read a couple chapters a day (most of them aren’t terribly long). There are one-hundred seventeen total in the book.

One of my favorite things I learned from the book, aside from getting a glimpse of what Parisian society was like in this era, came from the end, where there’s a chronology of Dumas’ life. In 1858, he moved to Russia. Some sources say he was there for over a year, while others say it was closer to nine months, but regardless, Dumas liked Russia enough to write travel guides about the place. Say what you want about the man—he certain had good taste in travel destinations.

Have you read any good classic works of literature lately? Let me know in the comments!