Book Reviews

Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe – Book Review

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Title
: Robinson Crusoe

Author: Daniel Defoe
Genre: classic, historical fiction, adventure
Release Date: April 25, 1719
Length: 301 pages
(no chapters)

Synopsis

Regarded as the first English novel, Robinson Crusoe is a work that goes to the heart of human existence. Told through the journal of Crusoe, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, it chronicles his daily battle to stay alive on a desert island, where his greatest struggle is with solitude — until a single footprint appears in the sand. 
Vividly depicting an individual’s psychological development from terrified survivor to master of man and nature, Defoe created one of the most enduring, universal myths in literature.

1st sentence

I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, tho’ not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull: He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was call’d Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now call’d, nay we call our selves, and write our name Crusoe, and so my companions always call’d me.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What— The stunning cover. And to collect even more of the Penguin English Library. 

The cover — Beautiful tree leaves that gives the cover an almost 3D effect with a nice shade of green and of course the book is so easy to hold.

My thoughts

That’s one long first sentence, don’t you think? The period took a while to show up.

Very rarely do I buy books knowing that I’d never read them. That’s what happened upon purchasing Robinson Crusoe, I got it just for the beautiful cover, and decided not to read it since all people around me who’ve read this said that it’s very draggy and boring and that it basically sucks.
One day, I was looking at it in the middle of one of the stacks in my room and thought: “Why not pick it up and read just 3 pages each day, if it’s really bad I won’t torture myself by reading it all at once”. Of course, the first 3 pages ended up being 25 and the next 3 pages ended up being 75…, so let’s just say that I read it fast. Why? Because I liked it.

This book is about the journey of a young man who wants an adventure, he doesn’t want to work a normal job, he wants something different. He goes through many endeavors, some take him downhill while others make him flourish until he gets himself marooned in an island all alone. On the island, the first few years take up most of the book’s length. Is it detailed? Yes, but I liked reading all the details about how he felt and how he managed to survive and keep himself sane. The other twenty-something years on the island passed by faster with a new companion to keep him company -Friday, and later on a lot more, all this passes by faster but it still kept me entertained. Then the years that occurred out of the island passed by even faster.

I really loved reading through all the changes that Robinson went through throughout the book, the way he viewed his bad luck as a blessing and how he came to start to believe in God and Faith was very touching.
There’s also a lot of beautiful lines to ponder over.

It was really difficult to read with no chapters because I usually like to stop my day’s read at the end of a chapter but here I would stop anywhere and every time I continued reading I kept on feeling like it’s one endless chapter (so it was a new experience). Also, the lack of dialogues was different since in the majority of the book it’s just Robinson with his thoughts and chores. A lot of new stuff that may have made me enjoy it more.

Overall          

A thought-provoking book. If you don’t mind detailed writing, you should try reading this. Oh and don’t try to improve your spelling by reading this novel, I don’t know why but lots of words were spelled so differently back then and there’s lots of contractions and viz.        5/5 stars

I learn’d to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side; and to consider what I enjoy’d, rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them; because they see, and covet something that he has not given them: All our discontents about what we want, appeared to me, to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.

 

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Boy, Roald Dahl – Book Review

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Title: Boy
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: nonfiction, autobiography
Order in series: Book # 1
Release Date: 1984
Length:  219 pages

Synopsis

In Boy, Roald Dahl recounts his days as a child growing up in England. From his years as a prankster at boarding school to his envious position as a chocolate tester for Cadbury’s, Roald Dahl’s boyhood was as full of excitement and the unexpected as are his world-famous, best-selling books. Packed with anecdotes — some funny, some painful, all interesting — this is a book that’s sure to please.

1st sentence

An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details.
This is not an autobiography. I would never write a history of myself.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What — An interest in reading the memories and thoughts of an author who wrote many children’s books that became classics, that lots of other writers get inspired from his works.

The cover — Love the green and blue. We also have an illustration of a young Roald Dahl in school.

My thoughts

Even though Roald Dahl insists that this book isn’t an autobiography, it is exactly that but with some of his magical touches that he adds to the stories he creates. He narrates some random events through his childhood in a way that makes you feel like you’re reading a fiction rather than a non-fiction.

We get to see his love of sweets and chocolate ever since he was just a kid. He was a mischievous kid at times, but a boy with a dream, a dream to have wild adventures in different countries (don’t we all?)

Reading this made me thank God I wasn’t attending school around the time he did. The schooling system was terrible. I mean, hitting students and the army-strict rules is complete nonsense! It seems that their only target was to discipline the students in being quiet without any opinions and the hell with the knowledge.

I admired his mother’s personality. She raised her own kids and the kids from her husband’s previous marriage all on her own and gave them a proper education and  would always take them to their annual vacation to Norway even though it was very hard and long to travel then – as described in the book. 

Overall          

An entertaining memoir for all ages. There’s even some snippets of the letters he used to send his mom as a kid (some are unclear and hard to read from being too old but they’re there).       5/5 stars

Two hours of writing fiction leaves this particular writer absolutely drained. For those two hours he has been miles away, he has been somewhere else, in a different place with totally different people, and the effort of swimming back into normal surroundings is very great. It is almost a shock. The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. 

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How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell – Audiobook Review

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Title: How to Train Your Dragon
Author: Cressida Cowell
Genre: Middle grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Humor
Order in series: Book #1 in a series
Release Date: 2003
Length: 214 pages

Audiobook’s narrator: David Tennant
Audiobook’s duration: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Synopsis

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is a truly extraordinary Viking hero known throughout Vikingdom as “the Dragon Whisperer”…but it wasn’t always so. Travel back to the days when the mighty warrior was just a boy, the quiet and thoughtful son of the Chief of the Hairy Hooligans. Can Hiccup capture a dragon and train it without being torn limb from limb? Join the adventure as the small boy finds a better way to train his dragon and become a hero!

1st sentence

Long ago, on the wild and windy isle of Berk, a smallish Viking with a longish name stood up to his ankles in snow.
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, the Hope and Heir to the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans, had been feeling slightly sick ever since he woke up that morning.

What made me listen to it

I had zero intentions of ever reading the books. However, one day, on youtube under ‘Related Videos’ a thumbnail of David Tennant popped up and then I discovered that he narrated the entire book series of How to Train Your Dragon…. there was a little freak out from my side and I immediately hit play; I was already bored out of my mind at work so I needed an audiobook to keep me sane.

I love David Tennant so so much (he’ll always be my favorite doctor) from Doctor Who and other works I’ve seen him in and I adore how adorable he is. Just looking at him or hearing his beautiful accent makes me smile.
I had seen the first movie that’s based on Cressida Cowell’s works but wasn’t interested in reading the books but if David Tennant is narrating then… Mmm… yeah….. I’m very very VERY interested in the book – I always were, actually…..

Thoughts on the story

How fun is this book? My laugh could be heard whenever a funny scene happened. I enjoyed the story so much. So many Vikings and Dragons with different personalities to entertain all.
Loved t
he tale of a ten-year-old boy struggling to be better by training his feisty dragon -Toothless- with his own methods as he experiments along the way proving to his father and the boys bullying him (it’s a ‘middle grade’ so of course there’s bullies, no surprise! and not only that the bullies’ dragons are hateful too) that he’s way more than they think.

This book is SO funny, it’s hard to mention all of my favorite scenes here. I mostly liked how from the beginning everyone was talking about this book that’s considered like a guide to training dragons that only contains one piece of advice: ‘Yell at it, the louder the better.’; this advice coming after the introduction of the author’s experience and degrees and how no one in town actually considered that it lacked more words till recently made it hilarious.

Thoughts on the audiobook narration

Let’s all give David a standing ovation, shall we?

He did an excellent job in narrating the story. His voice was calm and he read at a steady pace with different volumes to keep you hooked as the events of the story demands.
The voices he used for Tootthless, Old Wrinkly, Fislegs, Fireworm, and the Green Death were my favorites.

Overall          

Luckily I enjoyed the story a lot, which means more David Tennant. YAY!
Can’t wait to dive into more of Hiccup’s adventures with the dragons.        5/5 stars

Wartihog put up his hand. “What happens if we can’t read, sir?”
“No boasting, Wartihog!” boomed Gobber. “Get some idiot to read it for you.”

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Aesop’s Fables, Aesop – Book Review

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Title: Aesop’s Fables
Author: Aesop
Translated by: V. S. Vernon Jones (original language – Ancient Greek)
Genre: Classic, Short Stories, Anthology, Fable
Length: 239 pages
(total of 284 fables)

Synopsis

Aesop was a slave and storyteller who lived in ancient Greece around 620-564 BC. No writings by him exist (if they ever existed at all), yet numerous stories and tales have been credited to him and have been shared through oral tradition throughout the world. Many of these use animals as the main characters to convey deeper meanings and morals that have become ingrained in our cultural–and personal–belief systems.

1st moral

It is easy to despise what you cannot get.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What— I never would’ve picked up Aesop’s Fables because for some reason I thought I knew all of the fables (they’re in magazines and in many typing tests) so I figured there’s no need for reading them. However, since I’m collecting as many as I can of the Word Cloud Classic books I got this one too and eventually read it.

The cover — I’m in love with word cloud classic editions so yes, I love the cover. The orange color with the fox symbol on the spine and the engravings of nice quotes with of course the lovely endpapers. Oh, and the text of the title in the Greek style…. ahh I just love it all.

My thoughts

I was very wrong in thinking I knew all of the stories. It turns out that there’s more than just ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ or ‘The Farmer and His Sons’ or ‘The Shepard’s Boy and the Wolf’ and ‘The North Wind and the Sun’. I actually counted and the ones I’ve heard of before ended up being only 17 out of the 284 fables included in this book.

Most of the stories end with a sentence that tells you directly the moral of the story, while others don’t have anything written at the end, so it’s up to you to decide on the message you get from what you just read. Though, honestly some of the morals have nothing to do with the story, I mean I’d be reading it and go: “Yeah, I see the message,” and then when I read the sentence in the end I’d be like “Wait… Is that the moral? It should be the opposite”. Anyways, the morals are phrased beautifully so that’s always a good thing.

In this edition some stories come with illustrations – by Arthur Rackham – that help to picture the situation. Most people think that Aesop’s fables are only animal fables but there are some stories that revolve around just humans or the Gods. Still, the majority are about talking animals. 

When I first started reading it I told myself I’d read just 3 fables a day so I would ponder over the lessons; I stuck to that at first then I found myself reading a lot more than what I intended.

Overall

A nice collection of tales. The first fables were better than the ones toward the end (a few of them were boring and pointless). Some make you think, others make you laugh while others were just meh.      3.5/5 stars

Don’t be in a hurry to change one evil for another.

 

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A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle – Book Review

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Title: A Study in Scarlet
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Classic
Order in series: Book # 1 in a series
Release Date: 1887
Length: 135 pages
(total of 14 chapters as 2 parts)

Synopsis

The very first of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, A Study in Scarlet reveals the early days of Holmes and Watson’s friendship, and exactly how the former doctor became involved in a life of crime-solving.
A body is found in a grimy house in south London, its face twisted by fear and horror, with the word ‘RACHE’ scrawled on the wall in blood beside it – yet the corpse itself is completely unscathed. How did this man meet such a strange and terrible end? The answer is darker than anyone could imagine.

1st sentence

In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army.

What made me get it and thoughts on the cover

What— Since I was very young I used to hear about Sherlock Holmes and how smart he was and that he’s a fictional detective who can solve just about any case, and then I remember in 7th grade we took one of Holmes’ short stories (The Speckled Band) and I loved it, of course after that I watched many TV and movie adaptations revolving around the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. This year I felt the urge to actually start reading the books so I asked a friend of mine to make me a bookmark that suits the series (she did two amazing bookmarks) and started to buy Doyle’s work.

The cover — Since Penguin has all 4 of the main novels in the Penguin English Library edition I had to get them. I love the design of the front, back and spine and the feel of the book when reading is great.

My thoughts

At first it felt very weird to read the characters I’m familiar with having their own dialogues in paper and honestly, it took me a while to stop imagining Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman voicing Holmes and Watson in my head. After I forced myself to focus on just the book and the characters as they are described in the book I felt more at ease.

This is the first book in the series so we get to see how Watson first met Sherlock and the first case they solved together (well it was more Sherlock solving everything all on his own and then nonchalantly explaining the ‘how he knew’ in the end).
There’s a reason why Arthur Conan Doyle’s character became so popular. Reading it in 2017, after being familiar with lots of mystery twists, it still managed to keep me hooked and eager to know the reveal.

Confession: I was very confused when I started Part 2 (the second half of the book). I kept on reading the synopsis to check if there’s two stories in here rather than one ’cause so suddenly we’re introduced to new characters in the middle of the desert that had nothing to do with part 1. It hit me after a few pages that the last names of the characters were the ones of the dead person and suspect of the case.
So the author brought us to years before the incident to see what led the murderer to kill the two men the way he did. (I did like this tactic of showing us the true motive of the killing then going back to the present with Sherlock revealing who killed and how).

Oh and where’s Mrs. Hudson?

Overall

I can’t wait to continue with the series. This first book is very short so please do give it a try.    5/5 stars

‘I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.’

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