"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas

I finished! I finally, finally finished!!! It might be a miracle. I almost couldn't believe it when I ran out of pages. And the first thing I had to do was call my sister because this is one of her all-time-favorite books. Her first question was, "Did you love it?!"

The answer is . . . well . . . no. I didn't love it. But I did immensely enjoy the second half. The first half was so long and boring that I almost stopped reading, determined never to go back. However, the I-can't-leave-a-book-unfinished side of me resisted that temptation and started again a few months later. Confession: I may have read the first half in its unabridged form and the second half abridged. But that's ok. That may have been what it took to get me through. To be honest, though, I'm not 100% sure what I read. I read both halves on digital readers, but not on the same digital reader, so the editions were different. I didn't have the energy to go back and find the exact copy I'd been reading before and regardless, I still finished.

My greatest praise for this novel is that the ending is truly, truly satisfying. Having seen the movie many times, but knowing that the book was extremely different, there was still a part of me that was waiting for that movie moment to fall onto my page. It never did. The screenwriter of the movie took the bare bones of the novel and created something almost entirely new. But Alexandre Dumas created something better, something more realistic, something that only true adventure stories can give.


"The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara

 I am very unsure of how to review this book. I did not enjoy it, which is why it took me pretty much all of 2013 to finish it (plus a little of 2014). I struggled through and only found myself truly captivated in the last four chapters or so. However, I am glad I read it because in some way, I feel like those few chapters made the rest of the book worth struggling through.                                                                                                                             I have been meaning to read this for almost as long as I can remember because it's a novel that has always been on my mother's shelf. The movie "Gettysburg" is based on this book and having seen the movie, it was kind of fun to read and see the movie in my mind during certain parts. It's almost word-for-word. Because of that, I think the novel is actually a better screenplay. The writing is very choppy and Shaara's style is very fragmented. Most of all, I don't like that he gives personalities to actual characters from history. Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres, but in my opinion, Shaara took it a little too far. The research he did and the accuracy of his re-telling of the events at Gettysburg are, unarguably, phenomenal. I just don't like the characterization because no one can really know what Robert E. Lee was like or what Joshua Chamberlain was thinking during the attack at Little Round Top. A little characterization is necessary, of course, but The Killer Angels takes it to a whole new level.

After having said all of that, I will repeat myself. I'm glad I read it. If nothing else, reading this novel gave me a better appreciation for what the men who fought at Gettysburg must have experienced and what they must have witnessed in just a few short days. I can't imagine living through that horror and reading about it made me want to visit those historical sites again. More than anything, I want to stand on Cemetery Ridge and look out across those fields. The Killer Angels may not have been the best way to learn about the bloodiest battle in our nation's history, but regardless, I learned. And now have the desire to learn more and see more. I love America and I am grateful that we are a nation not divided into North and South. We have those men to thank for it!


2014 Reading List

2014 Reading List:

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (3/30/14)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (4/2/14)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (7/18/14)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (4/16/14)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (4/-/14)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (5/27/14)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (10/-/14)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (12/-/14)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (5/23/14)
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Stardust by Neil Gaiman (3/20/14)
The Story of My Life by Hellen Keller
Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
Something by John Grisham (haven't picked one, but I've found that any Grisham novel is a pretty good choice)

Yes, I do realize that Sherlock Holmes alone could take me the entire year to read, but I'll do my best to get through as many of the stories as possible. I also realize that listing the entire Harry Potter series for this year might be considered lazy since I've read all of them once or twice or three times before. But it's been a couple of years since I last read them, so guess what - it's time for a repeat! I'll also be finishing the books I didn't get to in 2013. So the seemingly shorter list for this year might be just as challenging as last year's, after all!