Book Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Genre: Classics, Gothic horror

Our house has been a flurry of activity lately. Hurricane Matthew evacuees (my parents), triathlon training, and today, the beginning of a major master bathroom renovation. Demolition is happening as I write, our cats are freaking out, and I am trying my best to avoid the noise, calm the cats, and get a book review posted!

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Poor kitty. I feel bad for both of our fur-babies today, who have no idea why there are strange men and so many loud noises happening in their precious home. They are keeping me company in the home office today, which is as far away from the renovation area as you can get.

I feel so sorry for them.

Okay, on to the book review.

“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”

Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic horror novel has been adapted so many times that I honestly had no idea what to expect from the original. So many books and movies have been influenced by this short novella: The League of Extraordinary GentlemenThe Incredible Hulk, Van Helsing, the many movie adaptations, and even an appearance in Looney Tunes, just to name a few. Was it going to be as timeless as its characters? Or will the frequent appearances in pop culture take away from the original storyline to this modern-day reader?

We start with Mr. Utterson – a sensible lawyer – listening to his friend Enfield tell a somewhat sinister tale about a mysterious Mr. Hyde. Mr. Utterson has heard Hyde’s name before, connected to his boyhood friend Dr. Jekyll, and sets out to find the relationship between the two.

I feel as if I have been familiar with the “good” Jekyll and “evil” Hyde my entire life, but I haven’t. Not really. And the first thing I realized was that despite appearances, Stevenson does not make the good versus evil divide that clear-cut. No…just like real life, there are multiple shades of grey in between. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Dr. Jekyll.

Dr. Jekyll is deeply conflicted about hidden vices that stem back to his young adulthood, but the precise nature of these vices are never named. The Victorian era is known for its social constraint, so one has to wonder if these “vices” were truly immoral acts, or just an alternate lifestyle condemned by Victorian sensitivities. This inner turmoil influences his scientific work, as he seeks to develop a potion that will separate the evil side of himself from the good part.

When he successfully creates this potion, the split did not happen as he thought it would:

Hence, although I had now two characters as well as two appearances, one was wholly evil, and the other was still the old Henry Jekyll, that incongruous compound of whose reformation and improvement I had already learned to despair. The movement was thus wholly toward the worse.

Stevenson’s prose is engaging, but I am generally not a fan of much of the plot happening in the form of a written letter, as it does in the latter part of the novella. I probably will not rank Jekyll and Hyde at the top of my list of favorite classics, but it is certainly an interesting, thought-provoking book to read. What is the nature of good and evil? Is human nature inherently a duality, as Stevenson suggests in this novel? Were Jekyll’s scientific experiments ethical? How did the expectations of Victorian society influence Jekyll’s decisions?

What I liked best about the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  was the questions that it raised for the reader.

WWW Wednesday: 12 October 2016

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Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday post, a meme hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Don’t forget to go take a look at what everyone else is reading! You can post your own WWW in the comment thread here.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:

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Leave Me by Gayle Forman. The verdict is still out about how I feel about this one. The storyline didn’t capture me at the beginning, but I am slowly warming to the characters and plot. Maybe.

Just Finished: 

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. Such a good book, and there is a long queue at the library for the next one!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Not what I expected, and not my favorite classic, but definitely thought-provoking and interesting.

Hopefully reviews for both of these books will go up on Thursday and Friday.

Up Next: 

Little Girls Can be Mean by Michelle Anthony. This has been sitting in my library book basket for a few weeks now, hopefully I’ll get around to reading it before it is due back!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. For the Halloween TBR challenge, and because I love to read spooky books in October!

What are you reading this week?

Halloween Read-A-Thon

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I always like to read spooky books during the month of October, so I have decided to join the Halloween Read-A-Thon, a challenge hosted by Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays – I love any excuse to dress up in costume! I also love any reason to participate in a themed read!

This year, we are doing a costume theme for the whole family, a first for us. Our theme is villains…villains often have the coolest outfits! My daughter will be dressing up as Harley Quinn and I will be Maleficent, and dear hubby is still deciding. Halloween is so much fun, especially in our neighborhood where some houses hand out treats for both the kids and adults! Our next-door neighbors have chili and beer, another house has margaritas, and we even have a neighbor that sets up a walk-through haunted maze in their backyard! It’s always a lot of fun.

Here is the info on the Halloween Read-a-Thon:

  • The read-a-thon will run from 10 October – 31 October.
  • You can join in at any time until the end of the read-a-thon.
  • You can read as many or as little books as you want!
  • The books have to be horror, thriller, and/or have some kind of supernatural element.
  • When posting your Halloween TBR list, link back to Lauren’ts Read-a-thon post.
  • Use the hashtag #HalloweenWR to share your progress on social media!

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz – I’m planning on going back to a few childhood favorites this month. M is really into spooky stories right now, so we will be reading these together in the weeks leading up to Halloween!

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I can’t believe I have never read this book, and Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors to read in October!

Blurb: After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

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51496 *A book where people are the ones who are causing all the scariness*

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. A scientist unlocking his inner evil? Yeah, this seems like the perfect fit for this category!

Blurb: In this harrowing tale of good and evil, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that unleashes his secret, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde.

 

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I do a lot of my reading after sunset, so most of these books would apply. Especially Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which I mentioned above. It just doesn’t seem right to read those books when the sun is up!

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18490Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I choose trick, reading a book that I have been putting off. I have been meaning to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for years! Our county public library chose Frankenstein as this year’s Community Read book in October, too. I take that as a sign that it’s time I read it.

Blurb: Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. It will be a miracle if I read six books for this challenge! But I had to add this to the challenge, as I do really want to start The Raven Cycle soon.

Blurb: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

These are my selections for the Halloween Read-a-Thon! Are you participating? What spooky books are you planning on reading in October?

 

Book Review: Roots by Alex Haley

Over the past few days, I have had to take a few days off from blogging, and here’s why: I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you have been watching the news, you have probably seen my city at one of its most tumultuous moments in recent history. I have lived in Charlotte for only 5 years, but it is the longest that I have lived anywhere since I graduated from high school almost 20 years ago, and I consider it my home.

It is difficult to watch your city break down into violence on the streets that you have walked over and over again. It is difficult to watch the turmoil on the news, knowing you have friends at the protests; knowing the few dozen who broke off from the main protest and turned to violence do not speak for everyone. It is difficult to witness the arrival of the National Guard, the imposition of a mandatory curfew, and the declaration of a state of emergency.

Yesterday, I attended the peaceful afternoon protest, along with thousands of others. We marched the streets of Charlotte in unity for a better tomorrow. I participated because racial discrimination happens every day in Charlotte to a countless number of people, and something needs to change. In the crowd were public school teachers, lawyers, public defenders, social workers, clergy and faith leaders, and many of the youth of this city. The protests are not spreading hate against police officers, in fact, I witnessed many protestors handing out water to the National Guard and Charlotte police officers, and chatting with them on the sidelines. No, it’s not about hate…it’s a desperate plea for equality in a country that has some very serious systemic problems that need to talked about out of the shadows.

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I have a diverse group of friends, and a long time ago I realized I owe it to them to understand the complexity that is race relations, white privilege, and social justice in the United States. Sometimes the best way to understand is by talking to people. Other times, it can include picking up and reading a book, such as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, or The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

It is in that frame of reference I move on to my review of Roots by Alex Haley.

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Title: Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Author: Alex Haley

Genre: Historical fiction

Roots tells the story of Kunta Kinte, an 18th century Mandinka man who was captured near his village in The Gambia and sent into slavery in the United States. The story is a sprawling family epic that follows the life of Kunta Kinte, as well as the lives of his descendants, continuing all the way to the author himself.

Setting aside the controversy surrounding this novel – Haley has been accused of plagiarizing parts of the novel from author Margaret Walker – doesn’t diminish the impact the book has had in helping modern-day readers understand the deplorable institution of the slave trade, and how it was carried out.

This is no Gone With the Wind. It is a gritty, raw look at the slave trade. It is not sugar-coated or glossed over. My timing in reading Roots, as well as The New Jim Crow last month, couldn’t be more powerful. It is challenging to read about American history’s darkest moments at a time when protests over the current mistreatment of people of color rock the streets of America.

As much as I enjoyed reading this novel, and especially the first few hundred pages detailing Kunta Kinte’s childhood, his kidnapping, and adjustment to life as a slave on a Southern plantation, the last part of the novel felt rushed. The reader is with Kunta for almost 550 pages or so. From Kizzy (Kunta’s daughter) and Chicken George (one of Kunta’s grandchildren) onwards, it became hard for me to get to know any of the characters. In fact, the last 100 pages, I had a hard time following all of the names and how they are interconnected, with events flying by so quickly. The reverse lineage that is described once Haley brings himself into the novel towards the end helped to an extent.

It’s an important book that should be required reading. Some say slavery was long ago, and we need to forget about it, but let’s face it: the system of slavery helped shape America into what it is today. To forget that it happened, or to brush it aside, does nothing to help us look at where we were, where we are now, and where we still need to be.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

 

 

Book Review – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The letter R was the last to go, it twisted in the flame, it curled outwards for a moment, becoming larger than ever. Then it crumpled too; the flame destroyed it. It was not ashes even, it was feathery dust…I went and washed my hands in the basin. I felt better, much better. I had a clean, new feeling…

When I think of gothic horror, the 1930s does not usually come to mind. But Rebecca du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Rebecca, has many elements of the genre: a mysterious ancestral home, ghostly legend (if not an actual ghost), romance, and a gloomy setting with an air of creeping suspense. It is also written in a style that evokes Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. 

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”

Set mainly in Cornwall on the English Coast, the novel centers around an unnamed young woman, recently married to Maxim de Winter, who arrives to the isolated Manderley estate to find a home that still appears to be mourning the drowning death of Rebecca de Winter, the first Mrs. de Winter. As we come to find out, all is not as it appears, and the second Mrs. de Winter (we never find out what her first name is), is confronted with the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s death.

One of the most interesting characters in the novel is the frightening and slightly unstable housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. She is downright scary, and she definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies! She’s spiteful and manipulative, but she is also heartbroken and lost.

“Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor here, I fancy I hear her just behind me. That quick, light footstep. I could not mistake it anywhere…It’s almost as though I catch the sound of her dress sweeping the stairs as she comes down to dinner. Do you think she can see us, talking to one another now? Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?” ~Mrs Danvers

Rebecca is not a traditional ghost story. She does not roam the halls of Manderley as a spirit. Her haunting occurs through the memories of those that live at Manderley, and most especially through the memories of Mrs. Danvers. The reader gets the impression that everything one touches at Manderley is Rebecca’s, and there is no room in the large massive for anyone else, but most especially a second Mrs. de Winter.

If you love gothic fiction, Jane Eyre, or mysteries, I highly recommend this book! Rebecca is also a good introduction to someone looking to branch out and read more classics.

Rating: 4/5 stars

WWW Wednesday – 14 September 2016

WWW is a weekly meme hosted by Sam over at Taking On a World of Words. You can join in by commenting on Sam’s post, and answering three questions.

Currently Reading:

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Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex HaleyI don’t have as much time to read this week as I would like, and so far, I have only made it to page 140. Roots is a story spanning generations about a man – and his descendents – who is captured in 18th century Gambia and sold into slavery in the American colonies. I am 9 pages away from the moment where he is kidnapped; Kunta Kinte is currently a young Mandinka man enjoying life in his village. I hate what is to come for him.

Just finished:

 

Sailor Moon, Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi – My daughter is reading these as well. Good, cheesy fun.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – You can find my review here.

What’s Next:

 

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – I’ve heard that books published under Victoria Schwab are YA, and book published under V.E. Schwab are adult, so I am curious what sets these apart from her YA work and makes them adult fantasy fiction.

What is coming up next on your reading list? 

WWW Wednesday – 7 September 2016

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WWW is a weekly meme hosted by Sam over at Taking On a World of Words. You can join in by commenting on Sam’s post, and answering three questions.

Currently Reading:

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Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

Holy Bagumba, this book is fantastic! Kate DiCamillo is one of the many authors who will be at this weekend’s Festival of Books and Authors, hosted by the non-profit Bookmarks organization in Winston-Salem, North Carolina this weekend. We are going to the festival, and the whole family is so excited to meet her! We hadn’t read Flora & Ulysses yet, so I picked it up on Amazon last week to read ahead of the festival. We will definitely be stopping by the Booksigning tent to get her books signed! We will likely also purchase a copy of her newest release, Raymie Nightingale, at the festival.

I am about 2/3 of the way through, and it is definitely jumping up to the top of my list of favorite Kate DiCamillo books.

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Still plugging away at The New Jim Crow, but I hope to finish it up in the next day or so.

Just finished:

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it. I probably won’t review this one, but would give it 3.5/5 stars. Might be the case of a book not living up to the high expectations I had set for it.

Reading Next:

Well, last week’s What am I reading next thoughts turned out to be completely inaccurate, lol. Here’s this week’s guess.

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Roots: The Saga of An American Family by Alex Haley – I participate in the TBR Challenge over on Librarything, and this is one of the books on my list (Rebecca was on the list as well). I have only read 12 of the 24 books on my challenge list; I really need to get back to it!

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Sailor Moon, Vol. 1 by Naoko Takeuchi – Back on my list again this week. I like to balance intense books (i.e. Roots)  with purely fun reads.