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The Big Read

Like a lot of people I’m always looking for something good to read. I often ask friends and associates for recommendations but that hasn’t been very successful. Possibly because I have a policy of killing anyone who suggests a book that I end up hating. Lately I’ve been downloading a lot of books off of the Amazon Top 100 ebooks  and Top 100 Free eBooks lists but that has been very hit or miss.  I’ve read some that I like but quite often I get a quarter to half way through a book and quit in disgust. But one thing I noticed on the free list is there are usually a lot of classics available. A part of my brain kept nagging me that people must still be reading them for a reason and that if I want something good to read there they are right in front of me. But to be honest I found the idea of reading a lot of them intimidating. And then one day while surfing the web I came across a list of the United Kingdom’s 200 “best-loved” novels. It was call The Big Read. Continue reading

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
(#18 on The Big Read. My combined total: 25.5)

Book one was first published in 1868 followed by book two in 1869.

Little-Women

 I had no idea what this book is about. I don't know why but I thought there were going to be 10 sisters not 4.

Writing: 8
Characters: 10
Story: 7.5  (9 for book 1. 6 for book 2)
Total: 25.5 out of 30

Overall: I'm really pissed at Alcott for killing the character she did. As soon as I started book two I knew it was going to happen. Other than that though I loved the book. I think it might even be magical. When ever I got engrossed in it I could swear I was young and reading in my room and hearing my brother and sister running around playing in the house while mom was in the kitchen cooking.

Recommendations: I highly recommend book 1 to anyone. Book 2 less so but if you like the first I don’t see how you could not read the second.

Available on Amazon.com

Free Kindle Edition: Little Women

DVD: Little Women (1994 starring Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder and Christian Bale)
1/10 You would think with the people starring in this movie that it would HAVE to be good. Well you would be wrong. This is an awful, terrible, bad, bad, bad adaption. If you haven't read the book it may be okay. That at least would explain why the movie has a 4.5 star rating on IMDB. But if you have read the book, this movie is a huge disappointment. All the spirituality is gone. The relationship between Beth and Mr. Laurence is gone. Christian Bale seemed to think he was playing Lennie Small instead of Laurie. And I'm sorry, Winona Ryder is simply not Jo.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
(#41 on The Big Read. My combined score: 30)

First published in Canada in 1908.

Anne-of-Green-Gables

I guess I was confusing this book with Anna  Karenina or something because I thought the book was going to be much weightier. I was not expecting a kids book or anything near this funny. 

Writing: 10
Characters: 10
Story: 10
Total: 30 out of 30

Overall: As close to a perfect book as I have ever read. Also one of the funniest, maybe only surpassed by The Hitchhiker’s Guide books. I loved everything about it. 

Recommendations: Everyone. Read it right now if you haven’t already. If you have, read it again.

Available on Amazon.com

Kindle Digital Edition (99¢): Anne of Green Gables (Illustrated)
Kindle Digital Edition (99¢): Anne of Green Gables Collection - Includes 12 books.

Movies

Anne of Green Gables: (1934 starring Dawn O'Day, O.P. Heggie and Helen Westley)
8/10 Marilla and Anne are prefect and so much of the dialogue is taken straight from the page. It might be hard to track down this version but I recommend it.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
(#51 on The Big Read. My combined score: 26)

The-Secret-Garden

I have no idea what this book is about. I'm pretty sure I never heard of it. 

Writing: 9
Characters: 8
Story: 9
Total: 26 out of 30

Overall: A really wonderful book. I can’t say enough good things about it. The only flaws were that Dickon is too good and that I got bored with the magic/power of positive thinking stuff.

Recommendations: Anyone but especially very young teens.

Available on Amazon.com

Free Kindle Edition: The Secret Garden

Free on YouTube: The Secret Garden (1987 TV movie starring Gennie James and Barret Oliver)
5/10 Production values like you would expect in a made for TV movie and the music score is truly horrible. There are story changes that just make no sense, for example Craven takes in Mary just because he was friends with her father and not because he was related, they've turned Medlock into a Nurse Ratched instead of someone who just doesn't want to be bothered and very little of the dialogue comes out of the book. In other words, the director thought he could write a better story than Frances Hodgson Burnett. He was wrong.

DVD: The Secret Garden (1993 starring Kate Maberly, Heydon Prowse and Andrew Knott)
8/10 A much better adaption. The casting of the kids is prefect and Medlock is played by Maggie Smith.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
(#1 on The Big Read. My combined score: 27)

I’ve read these three books multiple times. First when I was probably 14 or 15 years old and again every 10 years or so. Without question in the top 3 of my favorite books of all time.

Writing: 7
Characters: 10
Story: 10
Total: 27 out of 30

Overall: Love it. I will admit though that on each rereading I get a little more bored by all the descriptions of hills, trees and rivers. Why were the three books combined into one on the list when others like Harry Potter are listed separately?

Recommendations: Anyone. Everyone.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
(#24 on The Big Read. My combined score: 21)

Writing: 7
Characters: 7
Story: 7
Total: 21 out of 30

Overall: It was probably a mistake to read the first three Harry Potter books back-to-back. At this point I’m pretty bored with them. I will take a break and read the fourth book later to give it a fairer assessment.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
(#58 on The Big Read. My combined score: 8)

Going in I was vaguely aware of the story. I was pretty sure it has something to do with a horse.

Writing: 4
Characters: 2
Story: 2
Total: 8 out of 30

Overall: I had no idea this book was written from the horse’s perspective. But that is it’s only redeeming feature. I can understand young girls liking this but what adult is enjoying reading the account of a happy slave describing how terrible his life is and how wonderful it is when he gets a good master?  This book pulled off one feat that I did not expect, I hated it more than I did The Twits.

Recommendations: No one. I suppose at one time the book served a purpose in pointing out how people might unintentionally mistreat their horses. But since hardly anyone has a horse now and if they did there are a lot of better sources of information on their care and upkeep I would not recommend this book to anyone.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Godfather by Mario Puzo
(#91 on The Big Read. My combined score: 23)

This is a book I have intended to read for years after having seen and loved the movie.

Writing: 7
Characters: 8
Story: 8
Total: 23 out of 30

Overall: I wasn’t disappointed at all but was surprised that other than the story of Johnny Fontane there wasn’t a lot of extra material in the book. I guess that’s a testament to Frances Ford Coppola and what an outstanding job he did with the movie.

Recommendations: Anyone who likes mob/crime stories or who likes the movie. And who doesn’t like the movie?

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
(#128 on The Big Read. My Combined Score: 22)

This first book on the list that I’ve read previously. I’ve also seen quite a few of the TV and movie adaptions.

Writing: 7
Characters: 9
Story: 6
Total: 22 out of 30

Overall: This might actually be my least favorite Sherlock Holmes book. It’s easy to find gaps in logic in a lot of Doyle’s writing but it is especially bad here. The whole plot just doesn’t really make sense. The villains plan was to scare the guy to death? Really? I am guessing the reason this book is on the list is it one of the only Holmes stories that can be called a novel and it has been adapted so well and so often. I personally rank The Sign of the Four as the best of the few novels. But whatever, the reason you read a Sherlock Holmes books is for Sherlock Holmes and he is here in full force.

Recommendations: Just to Sherlock Holmes fans. Anyone who isn’t already a fan I would point to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the first collection of short stories.