May 6th, 2013


Book #20: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

A tale about humanity, as seen from the point of view from a horse called Black Beauty, I found this story enthralling from the start. The whole story is narrated by Black Beauty as he tells of how various circumstances caused him to be passed between a succession of owners throughout his life. This includes him being required to do various jobs, including fox hunting and, most commonly, pulling a hansom cab.

A large amount of the story deals with humanity's cruelty towards animals, and there are some shocking moments that depict horses being flogged, including a particularly upsetting moment involving Beauty's friend Ginger. Throughout the book, it is quite clear which of the human characters the reader is expected to like and dislike, and many of Black Beauty's owners are barbaric towards him and don't know how to treat horses, while others are sympathetic and stand up against the cruelty.

The most enjoyable thing about this book was the fact that all the horses (who speak to each other in the book) are very intelligent, and have a good understanding of humanity. So, the book often focusses on the actions of the humans, as Black Beauty observes them. The only similar thing I can ever remember reading in a story was the chapter in Gulliver's Travels with the land of the Hounhymns (talking horses). There is also an implicit critique of the futility of war in one chapter, where an old war horse tells Black Beauty his story, observing how he had no idea what the purpose of all the fighting was. The whole thing made me suspect that we must actually seem quite strange to animals!

Overall, I found this story enjoyable, though it was very upsetting at times because of the shocking treatment given to Black Beauty and the other horses. I would definitely recommend it to others.

Next book: Last Things First (Graham Beynon)
kitty, reading

Books #15 & #16

Book #15 was "White Witch, Black Curse" by Kim Harrison, part of her "The Hallows" series. My husband and I listen to these as audiobooks when we're on long road trips. They're brain candy, and I don't expect a lot from them other than to be amused for several hours, and Harrison usually delivers. This was a good one, with the main character, Rachel, maturing a bit, and the author wrapping up some dangling threads from previous books. She brings in a new character, and we don't get to see some of our favorites from previous books, but I imagine the old characters will be back in the next couple books.

Book #16 was "The Witches of Karres" by James H. Schmitz. I'd read this book as a young teen and really enjoyed it, and I wanted to re-read it as an adult and see if it held up to a second read. It's a silly space romp with paranormal elements, nominated for a Hugo in 1967. I found the style to be pretty campy and pulpy, but once I got past that, I did enjoy the book. It's not one that will shake your world and amaze you with new ideas, but it's amusing, and he keeps the action on such a breathless pace that you don't have too much time to think about how silly parts of it are. Apparently it started as a novella and then Schmitz expanded it. It does feel episodic, but hangs together as a novel just fine. Overall, an enjoyable, light read.

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Book #10 - Die Legenden des alten Japan

Book #10 – Die Legenden des alten Japan

Name of the Book (Name of the Series): Die Mythen des alten Japan (German. “The Myths of Old Japan”)
Name of the Author: Nelly Naumann
Genre: Academic Literature
Pages: 320
Date: 22.10.2012 - 23.11.2012
Short description: (Taken and translated from the book itself) Those who like to read stories of gods and demons, heroes and monsters, princes and princesses will find joy in this book. Those who seek knowledgeable introduction in centuries old basics of spiritual and material Japanese culture won’t be disappointed. Those who are hoping for anthropological insights will get a range of suggestions.

Own Statement:
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Next to review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jakyll and Mr. Hyde

Rating: 5/7
(1 – Horrible; 2 – Bad; 3 – Disapointing; 4 – Average / fine; 5 – Good; 6 – Very Good; 7 – Excellent)

(Off-topic: I've actually finished  book #22 recently, I'm just very much behind on writing and posting statements. I plan to catch up soon though, so bear with me, please.)

Book #11 - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Book #11 – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Name of the Book (Name of the Series): The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Name of the Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller, Psychological fiction
Pages: 88
Date: 04.12.2012
Short description: London lawyer Gabriel John Utterson is an old friend of Dr. Henry Jekyll, a very pleasant man, around whom he notices strange occurrences. When a murder happens Utterson feels obliged to investigate. What is the part of the strangely repulsing Edward Hyde in the events unfolding in all their horror before him?

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Next to review: Remnant population

Rating: 5/7
(1 – Horrible; 2 – Bad; 3 – Disappointing; 4 – Average / fine; 5 – Good; 6 – Very Good; 7 – Excellent)
warehouse floor

Book #23: Funeral Games

Book #23

Title: Funeral Games

Author: Mary Renault

Pages: 335

Genre: Historical Fiction, Ancient Greece, Alexander the Great

Rating: 4/5 (****)

Summary: The world wasn’t ready for Alexander the Great’s death; he left behind an empty throne without a worthy successor. Yet many tried… and this is the setting of this third book in Renault’s trilogy. Alexander’s generals formed factions and alliances for various territories or seeking regency, new Macedonians with royal blood hoped to fill his shoes, armies and brothers/fathers divided over loyalties fighting against each other while Alexander’s still unborn children were used as pawns in the power struggle.

Review: During the first two novels in the Alexander the Great series, Renault inspired awe as she led the readers through Alexander’s extraordinary life, watching the pieces fall together (through missteps, treachery, and pain as well as joy, loyalty, and love), as the dreams of an empire come together. In turn, this novel takes what he had built and smashes it to pieces through folly, hubris, greed, ignorance, feuds, and idiocy. It became increasingly painful to watch Alexander’s empire fall apart page after page. Not to fault Renault, she paints a beautifully heartbreaking picture, but it became almost emotionally unbearable to get through the last 100 pages.

Additionally, there are too many characters and I just couldn’t help but not be able to emotionally connect with many of them. Due to their appearances in the first two novels of the series, Bagoas and Ptolemy held my interest and continued emotional investment (although they only occupied a small fraction of the story). Aside from them, I was only able to connect with Eurydike, who was written brilliantly; which also surprised me since Renault seems to lack many interesting and realistically written female characters in her novels, usually the women characters aren’t painted in a positive light (although that also seems to reflect ancient Greek attitudes regarding women). And yet I felt for Eurydike as she, still in her teens, struggled to become a warrior Queen in a time that saw her as a silly girl.

Yet, the memory of Alexander haunts those left behind, as if taunting them in their failure. Renault ends the novel perfectly (won’t spoil it) tying it back to Alexander and leaving me in tears (again).

Overall, I couldn’t connect as well with this novel like I have with her other works, this may have been due to how many characters had to have been introduced or maybe because they were destroying Alexander’s empire which I have come to love. However, it is a brilliant political thriller that paints the struggle for Alexander’s power by individuals without even half the charisma, tactical genius, or vision. It’s like a train wreck that you just can’t take your eyes off.