Book Reviews

Review: 1984 by George Orwell

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‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . .

Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell’s terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime.


I was so looking forward to reading what I expected would be a really great book… and got this drivel instead. How disappointing. This is the first “classic” I’ve read that I absolutely hated. Total waste of time.

Author: George Orwell

Title: 1984

Published: June 8, 1949

Rating:

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This (brief) review was originally published on Goodreads on May 26, 2015.

 

 

 

Book Reviews

Review: The Summons by John Grisham

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Ray Atlee is a professor of law at the University of Virginia. He’s forty-three, newly single, and still enduring the aftershocks of a surprise divorce. He has a younger brother, Forrest, who redefines the notion of a family’s black sheep.

And he has a father, a very sick old man who lives alone in the ancestral home in Clanton, Mississippi. He is known to all as Judge Atlee, a beloved and powerful official who has towered over local law and politics for forty years. No longer on the bench, the Judge has withdrawn to the Atlee mansion and become a recluse.

With the end in sight, Judge Atlee issues a summons for both sons to return home to Clanton, to discuss the details of his estate. It is typed by the Judge himself, on his handsome old stationery, and gives the date and time for Ray and Forrest to appear in his study.

Ray reluctantly heads south, to his hometown, to the place where he grew up, which he prefers now to avoid. But the family meeting does not take place. The Judge dies too soon, and in doing so leaves behind a shocking secret known only to Ray.

And perhaps someone else.


I had a very hard time getting interested in this one, and that’s usually not the case for a Grisham novel. I was bored to tears until Ray (finally) went home to see his father, and discovered the Judge’s body.
The story did improve from that point on, but still, it wasn’t as enthralling as what I’ve come to expect from Grisham. I was able to figure out ‘whodunnit’ very easily, and thought the ending was quite lackluster.
It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it’s the worst I’ve read from Grisham.

Author: John Grisham

Title: The Summons

Published: 2002

Rating:

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This review was originally published on Goodreads in May 2010.

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews

Review: The Long Way Home by Andrea Stark

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Terra is 28, single, and muddling through her life as though locked in a time capsule of early adulthood. She obsesses about an old crush, commiserates with her best friend from high school and scours her old diaries for answers. That is, until a strange encounter with a violent waitress whisks her back to the world she documented in her diaries — a world where she is 16 years old, her life hasn’t yet ground to a screeching halt, and she might still have a chance with the boy of her dreams. As Terra sets out to change the mistakes she made as a teenager, she discovers that her memories and reality don’t quite fit together in this new version of her old life. A boy who claims to be in love with her becomes more dark and controlling, her own crush is more aloof than ever, and a mysterious girl lurks in the periphery, threatening to tear down the walls of Terra’s past. As the truth begins to unravel, Terra slips into a time-bending spiral of memories and lost dreams that she might not be able to escape with her life.


I really wanted to like this book. The premise sounded great. But, like so many free kindle books, it didn’t live up to its potential.

I thought I could overlook the bad spelling, but I doubt I’ll ever forget seeing ‘common’… instead of ‘c’mon’, which would have made more sense. Or ‘axe’…instead of ask. How does that mistake happen? Good grief!

After a certain point, the story just fell apart. Time shifts happened without warning, and it took too long to realize it. The closer to the end, the more confusing it was, and it seemed to break all the rules that had been previously established. The ending was abrupt, and made no sense whatsoever.

A careful rewrite (and edit of all the spelling mistakes!) would do this book a world of good. I’d even be willing to give it another shot, if it happened. I just hate to see good ideas go to waste. What a shame…

Author: Andrea Stark

Title: The Long Way Home

Published: June 9, 2011

Rating:

goodreads-badge-add-plusThis review was originally published on Goodreads on February 28, 2015.

 

Book Reviews

Review: A Rose for Hanna by Lesli Neubauer

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In 1848, a young, privileged German couple, Johann and Hanna find love in their arranged marriage. However, to the disappointment of both their families, chuck it all way, and travel half way across the world to experience life on the Texas frontier. They put their lives in peril on both land and sea, enduring through storms, wagon wrecks, encounters with savage Indians, and a harsh, unforgiving new climate. Johann often wonders why he ever brought his beautiful Hanna to this God-forsaken land. Was it God-forsaken? Would they endure? Or would they leave Texas, and come home to Germany as their families hoped?


It’s always sad when a story has potential and falls short. The characters were interesting enough for me to continue reading, but it was frustrating to continually see extraneous details and events pop up for no apparent reason, never to be expanded upon, and leaving you to wonder why they were there at all.

There was very little conflict in the story, and what was there felt forced. It didn’t flow well, and in most cases was resolved within a few sentences. It’s a shame because there were a couple of events that would have provided rich material for a recurring problem that could be resolved in a dramatic way.

Minor annoyances include poorly worded phrases, sentence structure, and the repeated use of the word ‘site’ instead of ‘sight’.

The ending left a lot to be desired, as well. It was abrupt and, to me, an odd place to conclude the story.

There are other books in this series, but I won’t be reading them.

Author: Lesli Neubauer

Title: A Rose for Hanna

Series: New Beginnings #1

Published: November 29, 2013 by Louis & Reed Publishing

Rating:

goodreads-badge-add-plusThis review was originally published on Goodreads on January 10, 2015.

 

Book Reviews

Review: Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig

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Note: This was published after Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley, but both books pick up where Gone with the Wind left off. Therefore I have numbered the sequel “2.1” because that’s how I think of it and it makes sense to me.


SPOILER ALERT!

This review contains TONS of spoilers.

I first heard about Rhett Butler’s People while browsing through Goodreads, and I was very excited to find a copy. My excitement started to fizzle as soon as I began reading it.

McCaig spent 12 years writing this authorized prequel, but chose time and again to alter (or blatantly ignore) key events from not only Gone with the Wind, but also from the (also authorized) sequel Scarlett. Apparently, he felt that disregarding Scarlett was prefectly acceptable, stating that “I think [the trust:] wanted to expunge Scarlett – they were genuinely embarrassed by it,” says McCaig. Be that as it may, it was authorized and part of the Gone with the Wind canon, whether the Mitchell Estate (or fans) were pleased with it or not, and should not have been disregarded.

A great deal of the story is wasted fleshing out characters connected to Rhett that were previously unknown, that (in my opinion) readers were better off not knowing in the first place. His childhood friends were uninteresting for the most part, as were most details about his relationships with his parents. The one interesting new character was that of Tazewell Watling, son of the notorious Belle and (presumably, by all who know him) Rhett. I was bored senseless through it 99% of it, and hoped the story would be greatly improved once Scarlett, Ashley, Melanie, et al. entered the story. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, I was horrified to see beloved characters acting completely unlike themselves. Melanie eavesdropping and finding out Scarlett didn’t love Charles? Ashley actually loving Scarlett? Melanie always being aware of how Scarlett and Ashley felt about each other, and expecting them to have an affair, ultimately seducing her own husband for fear that their forced celibacy would send him into Scarlett’s arms? (Not to mention writing letters to Rosemary (Butler) Ravanel detailing how much she hated the celibacy. As if Melanie, proper Southern lady that she was, would ever put such a thing in writing? Pffft.) And since when is Ella epileptic?

The one thing that might have redeemed this atrocity somewhat would have been knowing Rhett’s private thoughts about Scarlett’s miscarriage and the death of Bonnie. The miscarriage was ignored as though it never happened. Bonnie’s death and the days following it were not told from Rhett’s perspective at all, but Melanie’s via a letter to Rosemary. Two of the most wrenching moments in Rhett’s married life, and we are given nothing from Rhett’s point of view? Both played a major role in his later decision to leave Scarlett, so why are we not privy to his feelings about these events?

The story continues past Gone with the Wind‘s ending. Rhett digs Melanie’s grave at Twelve Oaks (wasn’t that lost due to unpaid taxes?) and rides away immediately after. Scarlett and the children (including Beau) come home to Tara, along with Rosemary and her son Louis Valentine. (Ridiculous name.) Ashley sells the sawmills, and moves back to the ruins of Twelve Oaks. Vandals strike Tara. Scarlett’s home in Atlanta is burned by an arsonist. Even though they are paid well, field workers refuse to come to Tara, leaving the family to manage on their own, and once again Scarlett (who now has no money) must struggle to keep Tara and feed her family. (So much for “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again”, eh?) Finally, in desperation, Scarlett telegraphs Rhett and asks him to come home, and he does.

And where has Rhett been? London. Paris. Still not giving a damn about anything, much less himself, trying his best to forget Scarlett. Seeing the dashing Rhett Butler reduced to a lovelorn man who doesn’t care if he lives or dies is… well, disgusting. Yes, love hurts sometimes, and the pain of loss can be overwhelming. Still, it seems implausible that Rhett would allow himself to wallow in grief or self-pity for very long. I also find it unfathomable that he would come home the instant he is beckoned. Grieving and unhappy as he may be, you would think there would be a small spark of his former self intact that would not allow him to come running the moment Scarlett crooked her finger at him.

As Rhett makes his journey home, Belle Watling alerts Scarlett and Rosemary that her father (Isaiah, the former overseer of the Butler plantation) along with two others have been terrorizing Tara, hoping for Scarlett to send for Rhett so that Isaiah could kill him in retaliation for the death of his son, killed in a duel with Rhett (when Rhett was assumed to have fathered her baby). The women devise a plan to put an end to things and save Rhett from being killed, but Ashley and Will Benteen (Sue Ellen’s husband) intervene, resulting in the death of Will. (Ashley as the dashing hero out to save the day was humorous, to say the least.)

Rhett returns (safely), pays off all the debts, and things are looking bright for the couple. A much-wanted reconciliation is taking place between the couple, and a happy ending is in sight when a grand barbecue takes place at Tara.

But now we come to the final disgrace of this ill-written thing. Isaiah Watling returns and sets fire to Tara. If I hadn’t been so angry, I might have wept. Throughout everything Scarlett went through in her life, Tara was the one mainstay in her life, her one safe haven. I suppose it wasn’t enough to ruin the characters and have them do things they would never have done, or to completely ignore details both big and small in the writing of this shameful travesty. In order to put the final nail in the coffin of all the beloved aspects of Gone with the Wind, he had to get rid of Tara, too.

Rather than enhancing the classic novel, Rhett Butler’s People all but destroys all the things readers held dear about Mitchell’s wonderfully complex group of characters. Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett did not, in my opinion, keep these characters true to form throughout that novel either, but the majority of it was enjoyable to read, and the writing style much more in line with Mitchell’s than McCaig’s managed to be. I can’t understand why he was chosen to write this… I guess my first clue that this was to be a bad book should have been the fact that I’ve never heard of him.

What a terrible, terrible disappointment this book turned out to be.

Author: Donald McCaig

Title: Rhett Butler’s People

Series: Gone with the Wind #2.1

Published: 11/6/2007 by MacMillan

Rating:

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I originally posted this review on Goodreads on July 27, 2010.