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Black Beauty, Anna Sewell – Book Review

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Title
: Black Beauty

Author: Anna Sewell
Genre: children’s, classic, animals
Release Date: November 24, 1877
Length: 195 pages
(total of 49 chapters as 4 parts)

Synopsis

As a young colt, Black Beauty gallops in the fresh green meadows with his beloved mother, Duchess, and their kind master. But when his owners are forced to sell him, he swaps a life of freedom and happiness for one of work and toil. Bravely he works as hard as he can, suffering at the hands of men who treat animals cruelly. But Black Beauty has an unbreakable spirit and a strong will, and is determined to survive.

1st sentence

The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What— It’s a well known children’s classic that I don’t know much about.

The cover — All black with engravings of quotes from the book – so beautiful! The endpaper is also so stunning. I thought the horse is female because of the glittery pink used in the title but nope Black Beauty is a male horse.

My thoughts

The book is told in a way like it’s an autobiography written by the horse itself (himself … the horse tells us snippets of his journey like a human I can’t help but refer to it by him), we get to see how he goes from being well taken care of to being treated badly by different masters after being injured in an accident. Along the way he gets to meet other horses, and even though we feel really bad for what Beauty is going through, some of his other acquaintances went through more hardships which made me think that Beauty was actually quite lucky and blessed to have been with a few owners who were very nice and kind to him.

You know how when you watch an animation about characters played by animals you tend to look at that particular animal differently in real life. Well you’ll feel the same here too. After reading this book whenever I see a horse with blinders on or a horse that’s dragging a cart, I think ” Yeah, I know what you’re going through, poor thing”, you also feel more sympathetic towards the people who used to work in a cab driven by horses and the hardships they go through with the different customers they get and long hours they work.

The author managed to write the novel in a way that would be enjoyable to readers of all ages. There’s one thing that I thought was overdone: Anna Sewell tends to write the moral of the story in the same paragraph of a story rather then leaving it out there for the reader to get the lesson intended behind the incident just mentioned. For example, a person would whip an animal and then this other good guy comes to stop the first one from hurting the animal and starts preaching about how bad being cruel is, so just in case whoever is reading didn’t get the message behind a certain part the author lets one of the characters yell it straight to our faces.
I prefer subtle messages, myself. 

Overall          

Quite a change to read from an animal’s perspective, making it an important read.        4.5/5 stars

“we have no right to distress any of God’s creatures without a very good reason; we call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”

 

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The Bird’s Nest, Shirley Jackson – Book Review

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Title
: The Bird’s Nest
Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: classic, mental illness, thriller
Release Date: 1954
Length: 256 pages
(total of 6 chapters)

Synopsis

Elizabeth Richmond is almost too quiet to be believed, with no friends, no parents, and a job that leaves her strangely unnoticed. But soon she starts to behave in ways she can neither control nor understand, to the increasing horror of her doctor, and the humiliation of her self-centered aunt. As a tormented Elizabeth becomes two people, then three, then four, each wilder and more wicked than the last, a battle of wills threatens to destroy the girl and all who surround her. The Bird’s Nest is a macabre journey into who we are, and how close we sometimes come to the brink of madness.

1st sentence

Although the museum was well known to be a seat of enormous learning, its foundations had begun to sag.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What— This book is actually my sister’s and the only reason I’m reading it is because it’s one of the 3 literary works she’s discussing in her Master’s thesis. I always knew The Bird’s Nest as one of Shirley Jackson’s books but I don’t think I would’ve ever read it on my own. 

The cover — I’m not a huge fan of covers with photographs of people but I do find the covers of Penguin Modern Classics appealing. The white spines and old-looking photographs on the cover does really give them the classic/modern look.

My thoughts

This is one of the unpopular books of Shirley Jackson and I definitely plan on reading her other books after this.
Her writing is entertaining by keeping some secrets while also revealing what’s necessary to keep up with the plot. The chapters are given from different perspectives (Elizabeth, Dr. Wright, Aunt Morgen, Betsy -one of the other three personalities of Elizabeth – and even in 3rd person) and this helped in seeing what the four personalities of the female protagonist go through in the doctor’s office, the aunt’s house and at work.

The novel showed a realistic side of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) which gave us lots of parts that would leave us puzzled and astonished while Elizabeth (the host) alternated between her different personalities in the same situation confusing others.
We get to see how difficult this mental illness is with the trauma that started it all and its effects on the host and other people surrounding them. In the end, we even get a bit of hope of how things can become brighter.

My favorites of the four will have to be Betsy, she was feisty and wild which spiced up the story and kept things entertaining, at times even, funny.

Overall          

Interesting story about a mental illness that doesn’t get discussed much.     4.5/5 stars

We are all measured, good or evil, by the wrong we do to others; I had made a monster and turned it loose upon the world and — since recognition is, after all, the cruelest pain — had seen it clearly and with understanding; Elizabeth R. was gone; I had corrupted her beyond redemption and in the cool eyes which now belonged entirely to Bess I read my own vanity and my own arrogance. I reveal myself; then, at last: I am a villain, for I created wantonly, and a blackguard, for I destroyed without compassion; I have no excuse.

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Matilda, Roald Dahl – Book Review

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Title: Matilda
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: children’s book, humor
Release Date: October 1, 1988
Length:  233 pages

Synopsis

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

1st sentence

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What — It was supposed to be another book that I read out loud to my little brother but he got bored after 10 pages so I read it by myself to see if it’s the same as the movie which was one of my favorites as a child.

The cover — Matilda looking so happy surrounded with books, gotta love it. 

My thoughts

You can’t be a bookworm and not know about Matilda, sure, my first introduction to this lovely character was from the movie but at least I knew her.

I was immediately drawn to this small little creature who’s devouring one big book after the other, being lost in well known novels. She’s so so young so it was fun to see her read all those book and actually believe it.
We get to see this small little protagonist go through different phases in the book.
First, with her discovery of reading and obsession with going to the library then we get to see her exacting her revenge on her horrible parents (parents who don’t deserve to be called mom and dad) which was fun to see her having the time of her life pranking them and then acting all innocent afterwards. Then we get to see Matilda go to school and meeting her new teacher – Miss Honey who immediately discovered that her new student is a gem. Later we get to see her encounters with the awful principal from which a special power of Matilda’s is discovered. Lastly, she bonds with her teacher and is able to use her powder to move things with her mind to scare the principal out of her wits which liberates the teacher and enables her to adopt Matilda.
So yeah, a child who’s not even 6 years went through all that!!

I’m glad that Roald Dahl was the one to write such a strong female character, especially since I’ve noticed that in his other books he usually makes the the female characters stupid and useless (i.e. Esio Trot). So far I’ve read three of his books that are centered around girls (Matilda, The Magic Finger, and The BFG).

Overall          

A lovely tale revolving such a cute and strong girl accompanied with amazing illustrations.     5/5 stars

It was pleasant to take a hot drink up to her room and have it beside her as she sat in her silent room reading in the empty house in the afternoons. The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.

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Scarlet, Marissa Meyer – Book Review

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Title: Scarlet
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: fantasy, young adult, fairy tale, science fiction, romance, dystopia
Order in series: Book #2 in The Lunar Chronicles
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Length: 452 pages
(total of 47 chapters as 4 parts/books)

Synopsis

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison — even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information about her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

1st sentence

Scarlet was descending toward the alley behind the Rieux Tavern when her portscreen chimed from the passenger seat, followed by an automated voice: “Comm received for Mademoiselle Scarlet Benoit from the Toulouse Law Enforcement Department of Missing Persons.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What— Cinder ended with quite a cliffhanger so I wanted to know what happens next, and to get introduced to new characters.

The cover — A trailing cloak of a beautiful red color. All four main books of the series in hardback look great together.

My thoughts

All of the main characters in the first part are back and we get to meet Captain Thorne, loved his character and his bickering/tries of flirting with Cinder. 
There’s Scarlet and Wolf – the new main characters in this book which is based on Little Red Riding Hood – whom I didn’t like that much. I felt there’s something missing in their relationship, they were a bit cheesy together and didn’t have the sparks.
Individually they had some cool moments so that’s why I don’t hate them. I just wished I like them more.

In this part I got used to Marissa Meyer’s writing and actually started enjoying her style a lot. Plot wise; there’s identities revealed and it did move at a fast pace that made it entertaining.

I have a feeling that the other books will be far better than this one.
Here, I wasn’t that intrigued with the whole twist in Wolf’s story but, whenever Kai, Cinder, Thorne, and Levana showed up I was very much alert and awake.

Overall          

Wasn’t my favorite. Still, you get lost in the world created by the author.     3.5/5 stars

“I really am sorry for shooting you.”
“Are you?”
Her touch lingered as it reached the end of the bandage, checking that it was still securely tied. “What does that mean?”
“I suspect you would shoot me all over again if you thought it would help your grandmother.”
She blinked up at him, almost surprised to discover how close they were standing. “I would,” She said. “But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be sorry about it afterward.”

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Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë – Book Review

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Title
: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Brontë
Genre: classic, gothic, romance
Release Date: December 1847
Length: 418 pages
(total of 34 chapters)

Synopsis

Wuthering Heights is the tale of two families both joined and riven by love and hate. Cathy is a beautiful and wilful young woman torn between her soft-hearted husband and Heathcliff, the fierce and resentful man who has loved her since childhood. The power of their bond creates a maelstrom of cruelty and violence which will leave one of them dead and cast a shadow over the lives of their children. 

1st sentence

1801. — I have just returned from a visit to my landlord — the solitary neighbor that I shall be troubled with.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What— Time to read a novel by another Brontë sister. I’ve also seen a movie and miniseries adaptation of Wuthering Heights, and wanted to know more about the main characters’ intentions by reading the original work, so I got the book.

The cover —Hauntingly beautiful. It says in the inner flap that the drawing on the cover was drawn by charcoal. Well it fits the atmosphere of the story perfectly and I love it, along with the drawings in the back of the cover from the inside.

My thoughts

First of all, how amazing is the setting! I love the whole gothic and creepy vibe of the book. I actually felt I was with them in the dark moors and in the haunting, lonely, and depressing houses.

After reading this, I still can’t believe how many readers consider Heathcliff and Cathy as one of their favorite romantic couples. This is where I disagree with the majority of them (and you, if you’re one of who thinks that way too). There is nothing romantic about their relationship. Cathy is a selfish girl who supposedly loved Heathcliff but decided to marry a rich guy just for the money to help Heathcliff someday (seriously?!?!) and then because he wasn’t able to get over the fact that the girl he grew up with ever since they were children isn’t his anymore he decided to get revenge on her by eloping with her sister-in-law and extending that revenge on her daughter and her brother’s son for the next 20+ years in a very cruel way, which makes him a true anti-hero.
So, in short, I think their relationship is based on obsession in a sick way which really makes them so stupidly pitiful.

I really wanted to get into their heads to see the process of their thinking, I mean their lives surely couldn’t have possibly revolved only around each other, but because the two narrators of our story weren’t either one of them we couldn’t get to know more of their thoughts. One of the narrators is an outsider who becomes a tenant in the Thrushcross Grange (the second property of Heathcliff in the present) and the second narrator is Nelly Dean, a servant that was there with the main characters of the story since they were young. Which also means that we only get the side of the story that she had witnessed, we don’t get the continuation of what she sees, nor do we get to know the inner thoughts of the other characters (we only know their thoughts by whatever they share with Nelly).

Oh, and there was this character called Joseph, that had a very heavy Yorkshire dialect I believe…. I couldn’t understand a thing, I was searching for 1 or 2 words that I was able to understand and make up a dialogue that he could’ve been saying.

Emily’s writing is beautiful, and I liked how we got to see history repeating itself in the next generation, but with the correct decisions made by these fresh faces that eventually got them a happy ending which the earlier generation wasn’t able to achieve.

Overall          

Read it for a story about obsession and revenge. Remember it’s not a romance.       4.75/5 stars

Because misery, and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart — you have broken it — and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me, that I am strong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you — oh God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?

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