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REVIEW: BLACK BEAUTY BY ANNA SEWELL

BLACK BEAUTY

BLACK BEAUTY BY ANNA SEWELL

KOBO (E-BOOK), FIRST PUBLISHED 1877

136 PAGES 

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/BLACK_BEAUTY 

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

Black Beauty is the autobiography of a horse. This gentle book follows the life a well bred horse, from his early childhood in a pleasant meadow, through a myriad of owners—some kind and some cruel—until fate returns him to the meadow in which he was born. A wonderful story that will remain with you and your child. 

EXTRACT 

The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. Over the hedge on one side we looked into a ploughed field, and on the other we looked over a gate at our master’s house, which stood by the roadside; at the top of the meadow was a grove of fir trees, and at the bottom a running brook overhung by a steep bank. 

REVIEW 

Black Beauty was a favourite when I was eight or nine. I haven’t read the book for about 25 years. I had a very pleasant trip down memory lane re-reading this classic. Black Beauty is a very simple yet incredibly powerful story of the relationship between human and animals, in this case horses. Black Beauty is narrated by the horse in question, Black Beauty in the form of a sort of autobiography. Black Beauty tells us about his life, his cruel and kind owners, the best way to treat horses and the relationship between man and beast. I think Black Beauty is the only thing I’ve read that is narrated by an animal. Sewell makes this work really well. The use of a horse as a narrator is one thing that makes Black Beauty a lovely book. I also think Black Beauty is the only thing I’ve read that conscious teaches us morals, in this case how wrong it is to be cruel to animals and the rewards of being kind. Even though Black Beauty carries a moral message, Sewell manages not to come across as preachy or talk down to the reader. Black Beauty is a lovely, thought-provoking book. I got teared up several times especially when Black Beauty was cruelly treated or recounted another horse’s cruel treatment. Black Beauty is a lovely book that tugged at my heart-strings. 

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Anna Sewell, E-book, Fiction, Novel

 

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REVIEW: THE COMPLETE OZ COLLECTION VOLUME 1 BY F. FRANK BAUM

OZ

Oz The Complete Collection Volume 1

Simon & Schuster (paperback), 2013             

574 Pages  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Marvelous_Land_of_Oz

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozma_of_Oz 

I only recently found out Baum had written fifteen books about Oz. I bought the complete set a five-book box set recently. Each book contains three books. 

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, find themselves in a strange land. Here, they meet the Munchkins and join the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion on an unforgettable journey to the Emerald City where the all-powerful Wizard lives. Can he help Dorothy return home? 

In The Marvellous Land of Oz, a young boy named Tip sets out to explore the Land of Oz. Along the way, he meets the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. Eventually Tip’s journey takes him into the Emerald City where he realises that his life will be changed forever. 

In Ozma of Oz, Dorothy returns to Oz and meets the mechanical man, Tik-Tok. But when Dorothy is taken prisoner by the evil Nome King only Ozma of Oz can save them.  Will she be in time? 

Together in one book, the first three titles in L. Frank Baum’s classic fairy-tale series about the world of Oz. 

EXTRACT 

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife. 

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ 

REVIEW 

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ 

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a favourite book when I was a child. I haven’t read it for years. The movie starring Judy Garland is one of my all-time favourites. I loved re-discovering Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion again. It’s been at least twenty years since I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum’s first Oz tale is a good as I remember. Magical and wonderful. I loved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. All my memories of reading this when I was a kid, cuddled up in an armchair with a mug of hot chocolate came back. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is fantastic. I can’t wait to read the 14 other books. 

THE MARVELLOUS LAND OF OZ 

I really enjoyed the second Oz book though thought it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum offers another fun tale full of wild characters and made adventures. I did miss Dorothy a bit though. The characters in The Marvellous Land of Oz didn’t sparkle quite as much. There are a lot of elements from The Marvellous Land of Oz that make it into the movie Return to Oz. Mombi is an old sorceress in the book and becomes the name of a villain in the movie. Jack Pumkinhead and the Gump also feature in the film. I liked catching up with the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow. 

OZMA OF OZ 

I loved Ozma of Oz. I thought the book was as good as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I loved Dorothy’s return. Ozma of Oz is well-written and packed with crazy characters and adventures and I enjoyed every page. Almost everything that happens in Ozma of Oz features in the movie Return to Oz. I like the movie so I enjoyed reading the source of inspiration. I loved reading about the Wheelers and Tik-Tok and the Nome King and the princess with a collection of thirty heads that she can changes whenever she wants (who becomes evil Mombi in Return to Oz). It was sort of weird reading about Tip from The Marvellous Land of Oz transformed into the beautiful Ozma. Ozma of Oz is a great read. I’m looking forward to volume 2. 

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2014 in Fiction, L. Frank Baum, Novel

 

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REVIEW: LOOKING OUT OF BROKEN WINDOWS BY DAN POWELL

BROKING WINDOWS

Looking Out Of Broken Windows by Dan Powell

Salt Publishing (paperback), 2014

168 Pages  

http://www.saltpublishing.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=9781907773730 

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2013 SCOTT PRIZE 

The characters in this Scott Prize shortlisted debut collection are all a little broken. Haunted by the past, trapped in the present, and frightened of the future, the world they look out on seems a dark and treacherous place. But there remains, for each of them perhaps, a glimmer of hope. 

A daughter returns home to find cracks in more than just her parents’ marriage. A middle-aged man plots to escape the clutches of his controlling mother. A woman, numbed by grief and desperately clinging to old routines, struggles to make sense of her sudden, terrible loss. A terminally ill man fights to survive long enough to let go. The staff and customers of The Teacup cafe witness a meteorological miracle that will change their lives. 

Daring, intense and poignant, Looking Out of Broken Windows maps an emotional terrain both expansive and intimate and includes stories which were awarded The Yeovil Prize for Fiction and the 2013 Carve Esoteric Award, and shortlisted for both the Salt Short Story Award and The Winchester Writers Conference Short Story Prize. 

EXTRACT 

Mum called to say Dad was having a baby with someone else. He’d come home from work that night, told her what he’d been up to and packed his bags. Glad of the excuse to get out of Manchester, I jumped on the last train home. I arrived a little after midnight to find all the windows dark. My door key turned in the lock, but the door wouldn’t open. I shoved it with my palm, then my shoulder, but still it wouldn’t budge. I thumped hard on the door, imagining

Mum’s body sprawled on the other side. 

LOOKING OUT OF BROKEN WINDOWS 

REVIEW 

I thought Looking out of Broken Windows was a fantastic collection of stories. Powell writes about a diverse array of subjects, characters and situations. Unusually for a collection, I didn’t find any stories that were similar. Every story was different and unique in its own way. Some stories in Looking out of Broken Windows were funny, some were sad, some were tragic and others were touching in a thousand little different ways. I thought every story in Looking out of Broken Windows was great. I laughed and cried, over and over. The title story is a gem. I’ve never laughed so much at a story before. Half mown lawn was an incredibly sad, moving story. A real heart-tugger. The Bus Shelter is another story that made me want to cry. This time Powell deals with old age and senility in such a touching way I found it heart-breaking. My gran has been dead for thirteen years and she had Alzheimer’s disease for a long time. The old man in The Bus Shelter reminded me of her a little and I wanted to hug him and make him a cup of tea. I thought Demand Feeding was brilliant and very original. I thought disintegrating marriage was quite disturbing. Most collections of stories have one or two clunkers. Looking out of Broken Windows is the exception. Every story in this collection added to the strength of the collection as a whole. I loved Looking out of Broken Windows and look forward to reading more of Powell’s work. 

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Dan Powell, Fiction, Short Fiction

 

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REVIEW: THE ALTAR OF THE DEAD BY HENRY JAMES

The+Altar+of+the+Dead

The Altar of the Dead by Henry James

The Horsham House Press (e-book)    

68 Pages  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Altar_of_the_Dead

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-altar-of-the-dead-14 

This was a free e-book from www.kobo.com

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

A short story about love, death, mortality, and remembrance. 

EXTRACT 

He had a mortal dislike, poor Stransom, to lean anniversaries, and loved them still less when they made pretence of a figure. Celebrations and suppressions were equally painful to him, and but one of the former found a place in his life. He had kept each year in his own fashion the date of Mary Antrim’s death. It would be more to the point perhaps to say that this occasion kept HIM: it kept him at least effectually from doing anything else. It took hold of him again and again with a hand of which time had softened but never loosened the touch. He waked to his feast of memory as consciously as he would have waked to his marriage-morn. Marriage had had of old but too little to say to the matter: for the girl who was to have been his bride there had been no bridal embrace. She had died of a malignant fever after the wedding-day had been fixed, and he had lost before fairly tasting it an affection that promised to fill his life to the brim. Of that benediction, however, it would have been false to say this life could really be emptied: it was still ruled by a pale ghost, still ordered by a sovereign presence. 

REVIEW 

I was disappointed by The Altar of the Dead. I really enjoyed James’s story The Turn of the Screw and thought this would be in a similar vein. I really liked the title. Unfortunately, The Altar of the Dead is just okay. James’s story isn’t awful (I’ve read a lot worse) but neither is it great. The Alar of the Dead is a middle of the road story, one you can take or leave. The Turn of the Screw is much more unsettling. James’s writing is excellent in The Altar of the Dead but that’s not enough to make this a great story. I found large chunks of The Altar of the Dead boring. There were some good moments but these were very sparse. Overall, The Altar of the Dead is very average. 

RATING

1 STAR

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in E-book, Fiction, Henry James

 

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BOOK REVIEW: MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON BY I.J. KAY

MOUNTAINS

Mountains of the Moon by I.J. Kay

Jonathan Cape (hardback), 2012 

368 pages  

http://unitedagents.co.uk/i-j-kay 

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

A woman in her thirties is released from prison, with a new name and not much else. She begins to make a fresh start but the present is soon invaded by fragments from her past.

 

Unsettling, hallucinatory and without precedent, Mountains of the Moon is the tragic account of a broken life, but, against all expectation, it amounts to something utterly beautiful. 

EXTRACT 

THREE KEYS: ONE for the main entrance; one for the letterbox on the wall outside and one for my brown front door, which comes complete with fist holes and crowbar dents around the lock. You wouldn’t think it, looking from outside. The building is an old vicarage, tall and imposing in a horseshoe shape with a gravel car park at the front. Sideways on to the street; it overlooks a park. Well, a railed bit of grass with mature trees; it belonged to the vicarage once. There’s a bench and a slide and probably a bird if you wait long enough. It’s used mostly by dog owners and heroin addicts, who don’t mind the dog shit or the discarded needles. I’ve never understood the bond between people and drugs, people and dogs, always wanted a real friend myself.   

REVIEW 

I really enjoyed Mountains of the Moon. The story jumps about a bit as we find out about the narrator present experience as she adjusts to life outside prison contrasted with flashbacks to different periods of her life from childhood until her incarceration. This made the structure of Mountains of the Moon a little disjoined but worked really well for me.  I didn’t have any issues following the time shifts.  The narrator uses different dialect at different ages so I knew where I was all the time. I loved the use of a first person narrator in Mountains of the Moon. I’m a fan of this type of narration. When it works really well it takes you right inside a character’s head, emotions and psyche. Kay offers this with Mountains of the Moon. I really like the character. The narrator is a very complex person.  She has different names and identities because of various traumatic things that have happened to her. I felt a real connection with her. I’ve never read a novel that dealt with someone on parole from prison before so I found this aspect of Mountains of the Moon really interesting. Mountains of the Moon is very well written, descriptive and engaging.  Mountains of the Moon is split into acts and even has a cast list sort of like a play which is found quite fun and unusual. Mountains of the Moon could have been a depressing misery memoir. There is enough violence, abuse and neglect to fill a few volumes. Mountains of the Moon never stoops to this level and instead is a thoughtful, thought-provoking novel about one woman’s survival. I thought Mountains of the Moon was really interesting and enjoyable. I look forward to Kay’s next offering.    

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2014 in Fiction, I.J. Kay, Novel

 

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BOOK REVIEW: 314 BOOK 3 BY A.R WISE

314

314 Book 3 by A.R Wise

Smashwords (e-book), 2014 

329 pages  

http://arwisebooks.com

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Alma Harper and her friends have been struggling to figure out the puzzle of lies that have been weaved in the town of Widowsfield. They’ve escaped the grasp of The Watcher, but now The Skeleton Man is free as well, and no one is certain what he’s capable of.

The Watcher in the Walls is forced to craft new lies, and weave a new nightmare in Widowsfield, but he longs for the return of the Harpers. As his world crumbles, he knows that the ones he’s influenced will return, and that everything can begin again.

As the clock ticks down, and March 14th approaches, all will be revealed. The true conspiracy will come to light, and each player will learn their role. The Skeleton Man will have his revenge.

EXTRACT 

‘So you don’t believe in ghosts?’ asked Wendell.

Pierce groaned and shook his head. ‘Look man, we’ve been through this before. Sorry, but I don’t believe in that sort of thing. Never have, never will’.

‘Even after all the stuff I sent you?’ Wendell loaded his paper plate with the pizza that had just been delivered. He’d invited his friend over to drink beers and watch a bad movie, a tradition they’d shared ever since they were in high school.

REVIEW 

I loved this conclusion to The Widowsfield Trilogy.  Wise really pulls out all the stops in the final volume.  The pace in book 3 is much slower than the other two volumes. 314 Book 3 did not have as many twists and time shifts so I wasn’t constantly scratching my head wondering where the next twist was coming from. I really liked the way Wise fills in back story in 314 Book 3 and things start to make sense. I really liked finding out what really happened in Widowsfield sixteen years before. I also liked finding out how this was linked with a similar experiment 50 years before. He dots finally connected in 314 Book 3. I really enjoyed the previous two volumes but found the conclusion segment the most enjoyable. I noticed the gore and violence has toned down a little in 314 Book 3. I didn’t have any issue with blood and gore in the previous volumes but it was nice to see the tone slow down a bit as well as the pace. I loved the way Wise managed to pull all the threads and plots together in 314 Book 3 so everything made sense. 314 Book 3 is a well-written conclusion to a great trilogy. I’ll read 314 again one day but this time would read all three books together.

I have downloaded the first part of Wise’s other series Deadlocked on my kobo. I will read it someday but not for a while.  I have a lot of stuff to read.  

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2014 in A.R Wise, E-book, Fiction, Novel

 

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BOOK REVIEW: UNDER THE DOME BY STEPHEN KING

DOME

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Hodder & Stoughton (hardback), 2009           

877 Pages  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_Dome

http://stephenking.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Under_the_Dome_(TV_series)

BLURB FROM THE COVER

It’s a bright Autumn morning in the small town of Chester’s Mill. Claudette Sanders is having a flying lesson and Dale Barbara is hitching a ride out of town. Neither makes it to their intended destinations.

Inexplicably, an invisible barrier has descended over the town. A woodchuck is chopped right in half; a gardener’s hand is severed at the wrist; the plane explodes with sheets of flame spreading to the ground and Dale Barbara, Iraq war vet turned short-order cook, is forced back to turn back into the town he so desperately needed to leave.

As the resident speculate about what has cut them off from the rest of the world, the Army searches for an inside man. ‘Barbie’ is put in charge. But Big Jim Rennie, the man who holds the town in his powerful grip, has other plans. And the Dome could be just the answer to his political prayers.

As food, electricity and water run short and children start to have premonitions of a terrifying Halloween, ‘Barbie’ is forced to take on Big Jim and his renegade supporters. Now time is running out for those living under the Dome. Can they find out what has created it before it’s too late? 

EXTRACT 

From two thousand feet where Claudette Sanders was taking a flying lesson, the town of Chester’s Mill gleamed in the morning light like something freshly made and just set down. Cars trundled along Main Street, flashing up winks of sun. The steeple of the Congo Church looked sharp enough to pierce the unblemished sky. The sun raced along the surface of Prestile Stream as the Seneca V overflew it, both plane and water cutting the town on the same diagonal course.

REVIEW 

First off, I’ve only watched the first season of the TV mini-series and thought it was a load of shit. I have no intention of watching any more. I feel better now that’s off my chest.

This is only my second read through of Under the Dome. I read it the first time in 2009 when it was released. I enjoyed the second read-through a lot more. Under the Dome is very different than other King novels and one of his few attempts at writing sci-fi. I really enjoyed Under the Dome. Sci-fi is not my favourite genre and it takes something special for me to get into a sci-fi novel. I love King’s concept for Under the Dome. I think King does a great job of creating the world of Chester’s Mills when the dome comes down. The actions and reactions of the characters are completely believable in the circumstances. Under the Dome has a huge cast of characters, possibly even larger than his last epic The Stand. I’m impressed by how King manages to handle such a large cast. Every character is fully formed. I thoroughly enjoyed Under the Dome. I really enjoyed reading how conditions got worse and worse and started to spiral out of control. The riot at Food City is the moment when it hits home to people just how bad the situation they are in is. Under the Dome is a compelling read as Barbie and his friends go up against Big Jim and Junior Rennie, both of whom are insane and his supporters. Under the Dome is a huge beast of a novel. I was impressed by the fact my attention was held from the first page until the last. Under the Dome is a well-written, fast paced, gripping epic sci-fi novel.

I just need to read 11.22.63 and I’m finished my Stephen King re-read.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 

 

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