Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll

alice in wonderland Original Publication Date: 1865

Genre: Fantasy, children's books

Topics: Crazy rabbits, casual endangerment, drugs, tea

Review by Sharky & Smiles:

Angry Sharky 3What is it with children’s books and casual endangerment of children?

Shocked SmilesNothing HAPPENS to her.

Surprised SharkyWho the heck orders kids to be beheaded?!

Surprised SmilesWell...

Default SharkyDon’t even try to justify this one.

Default SmilesThen I won't. Summary time! Now, imagine you’re lying on the grass. The weather’s nice, but there’s nothing to do and you’re bored out of your mind. Suddenly, you see a rabbit. Well, nothing strange about that. BUT WAIT. It’s wearing a teeny tiny waistcoat. And takes out a pocket-watch. And complains about how late it is. What do you do? Go back to being bored? Of course not! After that rabbit! Right down the rabbit hole!

Default SharkyIgnore the fact that a rabbit hole shouldn’t fit a human at all.

Default SmilesA lot of logic has to be ignored and really isn’t the point in this story. Anyway. You drop lightly down, down, down into a place where nothing makes sense, things can change from one second to another, and everyone is either really rude or completely wrapped up in their own weirdness. But first you have to drink from an unknown bottle just because it tells you to.

Happy Sharky2The story is definitely creative. I don’t think you can find such.... effortless bizarreness in many other books. And there’s a LOT of bizarreness. The main character, Alice, just travels from one strange set-piece to another. Stop, something weird happens, move on.

Happy SmilesIt’s terrific!

Angry Sharky 4It’s exhausting. Sometimes. The main set-pieces are great, absolutely creative imagery, but when even the transitions between them have to have something strange happening, you don’t get a chance to pause and take in anything. And some things just seem beyond pointless or just aren’t fun to read. The pointless puppy sequence, the idiot birds, the annoying mock-turtle, the awful, awful scene at the Duchess’s house which you should just skip over because it’s the stupidest-

Sad Smiles 2I swear he likes this book.

Angry SharkyAGH.

Sassy SmilesThis is definitely one of those books you really shouldn’t think too hard about. Which for Sharky is pretty much impossible.

Default SharkySo it doesn’t help when I’ve got to stop and start skipping over the bits I don’t like. But I put up with it because there’s stuff in there I’d happily revisit.

Default SmilesAnd there really is a LOT. A crazy tea-party, a royal court where everyone is a playing card, food and drink that makes you change your size, a disappearing cat, a court of law where nobody knows what they’re doing, a queen who keeps ordering beheadings but the king pardons everyone behind her back anyway so that’s okay. It also has a share of dumb puns which make me groan, but that’s why I love puns. And fun poems like The Lobster Quadrille and You Are Old, Father William. And genuinely funny moments like the cat appearing as just a head so nobody can figure out how to behead it. Seriously that part’s short but pretty funny.

Confused SharkyEven the Duchess bit, as much as I hate it and skip over it every time, has a pretty funny start where the footman of her house just refuses to go inside because everyone’s so crazy in there. I don’t know, it’s such a mixed bag of stuff I REALLY don’t like mixed in with stuff I really love? But it's worth a go.

Default SmilesHonestly if I knew how to get out of it, I’d love to visit it. I guess that’s the criteria for visiting most fictional places. But to go there in place of Alice and just... be weird at people and see how they would react seems really fun to me. It’ll probably all end up the same though. Most of the people are really easily offended. Which makes Sharky a citizen of Wonderland.

Angry Sharky 3Don’t make me punch you.

alice's tea

Download Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll at Project Gutenberg|Librivox

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: JEEVES AND WOOSTER by PG Wodehouse

jeeves and wooster Original Publication Date: 1934

Genre: Mystery, comedy

Topics: Society, love, no good deed goes unpunished

Review by Sharky & Smiles:

Default SmilesImagine you’re a pleasant, helpful, not very clever member of the upper class. Imagine your friends aren’t even that clever or that pleasant and helpful. And they keep getting into trouble and expecting you to get them out of it. Of course, they’re your pals, so you do, mostly based on plans your incredibly intelligent valet makes up. Same thing applies when you mess everything up and get into even deeper trouble.

Default SharkySounds like a recipe for disaster, needlessly overcomplicating a simple problem.

Shocked SmilesSimple problem you say? Now imagine if X loves Y but can’t meet Y so Z goes to make sure Y doesn’t get stolen away by Y’s charming guest while pretending to be A because A is engaged to B and B’s relatives are expecting A to visit and A can’t make it.

Confused Sharky... what...

Default SmilesThat’s the BASE plot of the book we read. It just gets worse from there until everything collapses on itself like an abused soufflĂ©. Somehow into a happy ending.

Happy Sharky2The pattern is broadly the same in each book in the series, but they’re all uniquely absurd in their own ways. The nice thing is you can probably just grab any Jeeves and Wooster book (and there’s a lot of them) and enjoy it as a stand-alone, without having to worry about sequence or whether you have to read five other things to know what’s going on.

Happy SmilesYou’ll likely never know quite what’s going on anyway, and that’s the fun of it. It’s another one of those wild rides where you just have to trust the author. And if you can’t do that, if you keep stopping to roll your eyes or object to how silly things are getting, you don’t enjoy. These are SILLY books. So silly. Complete, absurd, slapstick, screwball comedy narrated with a style I’m completely in love with.

Happy Sharky2Remember what we said about Hitchiker’s Guide being weird with amazing narration? This is very like that, but without the freedom of weirdness of being set in space among aliens. And if you think a non-magical, non-alien setting doesn’t give you much leeway to be silly and strange, boy are you wrong.

Default SmilesThe characters are more like caricatures, the plots are basically ridiculous, and the narration keeps going off on its own tangents in the most amusing ways. Great descriptions, run on confusions and liberal use of ‘dash it all!’

Default SharkyI’m 100% behind the way things are narrated. But I tend to lose patience with the characters sometimes, they’re all such idiots. They’re supposed to be but that doesn’t always help.

Sassy SmilesI caught Sharky yelling oh my God just tell the truth already at the book.

Angry Sharky 2Oh my God just tell the truth already it’s not that hard but you’re making it harder what is happening why is nobody making any sense.

Sassy SmilesIt got worse for him when someone tried to tell the truth, it got over-exaggerated by someone else, and now nobody believes the original truth.


Default SmilesBut that’s why you have to hold on and just trust the author. Everything has to go horribly for the main character, Bertie, before things can get better for anyone else, and always in the most ridiculous ways. It would almost be tragic if it wasn’t so funny.

Sassy SmilesUnlike Sharky, Jeeves is actually helpful. And objectively the smartest person in every book.

Happy Sharky2But even the stupidest characters can be really sarcastic and witty, even if Bertie can never quote anything properly even when he’s trying to act clever.

Surprised SmilesSomeone somewhere once said something very profound about comedy and tragedy being the same. Kind of. Broadly. Probably.

Sassy SharkyNow you know what to expect when Bertie quotes anything.

Default SmilesI like the setting. There’s something nice about spending time in a little bubble where the biggest problem tends to be ‘my aunt is angry at me and she’s very scary’. It reminds me of those books where kids could have adventures because they didn’t really have to worry about anything else. Despite the fact that these books are set between wars and during, we’re in a sunny little patch where things are good, money- and status-wise, but love and family is confusing and people are unreasonable and sometimes there isn’t time to dress for dinner and you feel out of place.

Sassy SharkyJust so you know, Smiles has been shaking in place, trying not to spend the entire review just spouting off quotations rather than talking about the book.

Happy SmilesI just want to quote so many things! ... which I do with every book. Tell you what, between this review and the next one, we’ll do a mid-week upload with a quote from each of the books we’ve reviewed!

Surprised SharkyWha- we didn’t discuss that!

Default SmilesOh Sharky, when do I ever discuss what we’re going to do with you?

Quiet Sharky

Download Right Ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse at Project Gutenberg|Librivox