Book Review: Ann Veronica by HG Wells

Title: Ann Veronica
Author: HG Wells
Publisher: Penguin Books Limited
Paperback: 352 pages
Source: Own
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Twenty-one, passionate and headstrong, Ann Veronica Stanley is determined to live her own life. When her father forbids her attending a fashionable ball, she decides she has no choice but to leave her family home and make a fresh start in London. There, she finds a world of intellectuals, socialists and suffragettes — a place where, as a student in biology at Imperial College, she can be truly free. But when she meets the brilliant Capes, a married academic, and quickly falls in love, she soon finds that freedom comes at a price.

A fascinating description of the women’s suffrage movement, Ann Veronica offers an optimistic depiction of one woman’s sexual awakening and search for independence.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I had serious doubts about this book when I first started it, not only is it not science fiction, but a ROMANCE, from HG Wells? Yeah, okay. I was thinking it was going to be ridiculous, but once I started reading it, I realized it was completely different from what I had first thought — it’s an early book about feminism. And you know what? It’s done rather splendidly.

Ann Veronica is the youngest of a fairly well-to-do family. She’s not your typical turn-of-the-20th-century girl — she studies biology at a college (with her father’s permission) and enjoys talking about her intellectual interests with others. Her close friends are burgeoning suffragists, so she often joins their discussions about how women aren’t free to do what they want and how they’re caged up in society because men keep them imprisoned, basically. So, when her father literally locks her in her bedroom to prevent her from going to a ball, she runs away to the city to make it on her own. She quickly finds out that there’s not a great way for women to make a lot of money, and renting out an apartment in London actually costs quite a lot. Basically, she has to face harder truths than she realized were out there and more fully understands the plight of women because of her decision to not live under her father’s roof.

What I love about this story is how it covers everything and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. It gives a clear, honest look at exactly what the situation of women was for that time period — hardly any job prospects (and any available were drudgery for pennies), no respect, and no vote. Their lives were at the mercy of the men in their lives and they weren’t taught anything about how to survive or live in the world. Ann Veronica even gets herself into a misunderstanding with a man and it’s sad how much that particular “misunderstanding” can still be seen in today’s world. They talk as if they’re friends, and they go out to lunch together as friends, and then he locks her in a room with him “to make love” because of course she had to know that they weren’t really friends and he wanted her, and deserved her after all that he’d given her. (Isn’t it creepy how familiar that sounds?) HG Wells does a tremendous job in outlining the various difficulties that women faced when they fought for equal rights and equal opportunities in London and really hits, if not all, then at least most of the points.

The first half was wonderful, but it does start to drag a bit as the book goes on. I think the first half of the book is perfect and it would have been 5 stars if it had continued in that vein, but then Ann Veronica falls in love and the whole story sort of starts to fall apart and get into themes that don’t make sense for where the book started. Alas. Basically, I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in feminism, its roots, or even how it was viewed during this time. I was blown away by how insightful this story was and a little saddened by how true those themes remain. If not a great story, it’s interesting to see the thoughts and themes of feminism from a male author born in the 19th century.

Review: Manga Classics – The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Crystal S. Chan

scarlet letter manga.jpg
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Title: Manga Classics – The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Story Adaptation: Crystal S. Chan
English Dialogue Adaptation: Stacy King
Illustrator: SunNeko Lee
Lettering: WT Francis
Publisher: Udon Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing
Paperback: 308 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

A powerful tale of forbidden love, shame, and revenge comes to life in Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter. Faithfully adapted by Crystal Chan from the original novel, this new edition features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee (Manga Classics: Les Miserables) which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into the Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tragic saga of Puritan America. Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions. Proudly presented by UDON Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I was first interested in this book, because I’m starting to branch out to reading more manga and I wanted to see how a classic story like The Scarlet Letter would translate to a manga. Overall, I think it’s a huge success. The story itself stays true to the original and the overall main points are still hit, which was a concern of mine when I started it. The pictures are beautifully done, and while I think there were a few too many panels of the priest “clutching his chest,” overall, it works out to be a quick read for a classic, captivating story.

Its strength really lies in how the novel is written in the first place. Hawthorne is someone who likes to be wordy and include a lot of description that is able to simply be shown in the drawings — no need to worry about five pages of foliage, when the foliage is right there in the pictures; it cuts down a lot on the slog and lets the reader focus on the story and characters in general. For people who don’t find Hawthorne’s style to be engaging, but who might like this overall story, reading Manga Classics would be a great way for them to be introduced to this story.

I can also see this as an amazing addition in the classroom, since it can be used as a tool for lower-level readers or those who have a problem with reading a lot of words stay engaged with the story and be able to participate in overall discussions on theme, characters, etc. It can also be used in a lesson where students can compare different story-telling formats and analyze the differences of manga versus prose. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Which do they personally prefer? Tons of possible lessons if you introduce a book like this to your classroom.

The Manga Classics version of The Scarlet Letter is a great read and definitely something to check out if you have a struggling reader who wants a bit of help getting through the story, or even if you just want to experience this story in a new format. Very well done — I recommend it.

 

Book Review: The Erotic Poems by Ovid, tranlsated by Peter Green

Erotic PoemsTitle: The Erotic Poems
Author: Ovid
Translator: Peter Green
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Paperback: 464 pages
Source: Own
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

This collection of Ovid’s poems deals with the whole spectrum of sexual desire, ranging from deeply emotional declarations of eternal devotion to flippant arguments for promiscuity. In the “Amores”, Ovid addresses himself in a series of elegies to Corinna, his beautiful, elusive mistress. The intimate and vulnerable nature of the poet revealed in these early poems vanishes in the notorious Art of Love, in which he provides a knowing and witty guide to sexual conquest – a work whose alleged obscenity led to Ovid’s banishment from Rome in AD 8. This volume also includes the “Cures for Love”, with instructions on how to terminate a love affair, and “On Facial Treatment for Ladies”, an incomplete poem on the art of cosmetics.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I started reading this collection a long, long time ago back in the days of college, but other things came up and since I wasn’t assigned to read the whole thing for college, I didn’t end up finishing it. Finally, it came up on my reading list, so finally, I got around to reading the whole thing.

A few things struck me while reading this. I admit, I was biased to look for it, because the whole point as to why excerpts from it were assigned in college is that a lot of what Ovid talks about is still so relevant to today’s world. Even while the same laws aren’t in place, similar concepts remain constant. For example, a lot of his writing tries to assure the reader that he is not giving them advice for committing adultery or having a liaison with a highborn woman — while we are a bit more free with our views, or are at least jaded enough to accept that adultery happens, if someone were to publish a book with advice for how to successfully commit adultery, they would be heavily criticized in our society (especially America). So, while we don’t really have laws against it here, it’s still taboo, which is an interesting thing to talk about.

Another thing I loved about this particular version is the translation. Green is a hero. He is so good at translating not only just the words but the flavor of them in English that we can understand. Pop culture phrasing and literary devices are used with skill what he feels is Ovid’s attitude, which I found to be wonderful. This version is one of the most readable translations I’ve read of this particular collection because of that, and I immensely appreciated it.

I understand that some might find this collection a tough read, with the formal language and numerous mythological allusions, but even with my rudimentary understanding of mythology, I was able to grasp the basic allusions and still enjoy his language and storytelling. If you’re into classics, for sure read this one. It’s an interesting look at Roman culture during Ovid’s time, and Green does a fantastic job in giving an easily readable translation and enough background history for the reader to understand the context in which it was written. I admit that it won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Audiobook Review: Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery, narrated by Colleen Winton

anne-of-avonlea-post-hypnotic-press
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Title: Anne of Avonlea
Author: LM Montgomery
Series: Anne of Green Gables, Book 2
Narrator: Colleen Winton
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Duration: 9 hours, 25 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Following Anne of Green Gables (1908), the book covers the second chapter in the life of Anne Shirley. This book follows Anne from the age of 16 to 18, during the two years that she teaches at Avonlea school. It includes many of the characters from Anne of Green Gables, as well as new ones like Mr. Harrison, Miss Lavendar Lewis, Paul Irving, and the twins Dora and Davy. Narrated by Colleen Winton.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

*I was provided a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

In Anne of Avonlea, we get to see Anne dealing with more grown-up troubles, which prevents this book from being as humorous as the first, but it’s still entertaining. Also, Marilla and Anne adopt twins, so their antics add a bit of fun into the story.

This is a re-read for me, and as a kid, I didn’t think to appreciate how Montgomery develops Anne’s character, taking time to show her growth from a child to an adult. What I like most is how Anne is shown as being much more responsible and thoughtful while still being herself, which is a tricky balance. Overall, not much goes on in this book. It’s very much a set-up for Anne becoming an adult, and there aren’t any huge plot points that wow-ed me. An engagement or two and the adoption of Davy and Dora are pretty much the only things that I found important. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. This series is more character-driven that plot-driven, and it’s always nice to revisit Anne and her world.

My favorite part about listening to a series in audiobook format is that, with a good narrator, the characters just feel more real to me. And Colleen Winton is a great narrator — she really brings the personalities of the characters to life. She is consistent with all the old characters’ idiosyncrasies from the first book and does a good job in portraying the new characters. For this book in particular, I liked being able to listen to it, because not much goes on in the way of plot or excitement, so it’s nice to be able to do something productive while re-reading an old favorite. If you are at all a fan of audiobooks, this is a nice series to try in audio.

*Listen to a sample!*

Audiobook Review: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

anne-of-green-gables-post-hypnotic-press
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Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: LM Montgomery
Narrator: Colleen Winton
Series: Anne of Green Gables, Book 1
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Duration: 10 hours, 8 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Anne, a young orphan from the fictional community of Bolingbroke, Nova Scotia, is sent to Prince Edward Island after a childhood spent in strangers’ homes and orphanages. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, siblings in their fifties and sixties, had decided to adopt a boy from the orphanage to help Matthew run their farm. They live at Green Gables, their Avonlea farmhouse on Prince Edward Island. Through a misunderstanding, the orphanage sends Anne Shirley. And Anne brings all sorts of surprises in her wake.

So begins the classic tale of a girl who, through trying to find her place in the world, ends up bringing love and adventure to Green Gables.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

It has been over a decade since I’ve visited the world of Green Gables, so when I saw this title available to review, I just couldn’t pass up a chance to revisit it.

Anne of Green Gables is a classic coming of age story about a young girl named Anne who gets sent to siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert by mistake — they wanted a boy to help with farm work. But when Marilla agrees to keep the talkative child and raise her up, she certainly gets more than she bargained for. Anne is energetic and over-the-top imaginative, but she is also full of love and generosity.

This book is about being a kid and, oftentimes, learning lessons the hard way. It also shows that even though adults are the ones in charge, they also learn just as much from children as children do for them — I love that balance of perspective. There are also lovely lessons embedded in this story about friendship, forgiveness, and making the most out of life.

But don’t take that to mean that you’re hit over the head with moral after moral! The events flow naturally together, and to make things better, this book is funny. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions because of the ridiculousness of Anne’s antics or Matthew’s attempts to go against Marilla’s wishes and spoil Anne.

I’ve only ever read the book, so listening to this story as an audiobook was a new experience for me. In some ways, it was more difficult for me to let go and enjoy listening to the story, because I’d already made my own assumptions about these characters in my head. However, Colleen Winton is an excellent narrator and I was hooked within a couple of chapters. She’s able to see into the heart of the characters and reflect their personalities in her narration, which made for an entertaining experience.

The excellence of the performance is in the details. When the book says that Anne’s friend, Diana is the kind of girl who always laughs before she speaks, Winton is sure to give a bit of a laugh before Diana’s dialogue throughout the entire audiobook. It’s the added thoughtfulness that really makes the narration stand out. And of course, all the standard marks for a good narration apply: there are distinct voices for each character and the tone of the exposition is reflected in Winton’s voice. Winton brings this story to life, making this an audiobook well worth listening to. And if you want a taste of it yourself — check out below, where I’ve shared the publisher’s sample track.

In short, if you haven’t read it, go read it! Anne of Green Gables is by far one of my all-time favorites. But if you have read it, consider giving it another go. This one is definitely worth revisiting. And if you’re audiobook-minded, definitely consider listening to this edition — it is delightful!

A big thank you to Audiobook Jukebox for their Solid Gold Reviewer program, through which I found this title.

A second big thank you to Post Hypnotic Press for providing me with a copy.

Audiobook Review: She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

Title: She Stoops to Conquer
Author: Oliver Goldsmith
Performers: Rosalind Ayres, Adam Godley, Julian Holloway, James Marsters, Christopher Neame, Paula Jane Newman, Ian Ogilvy, Moira Quirk, Darren Richardson, Joanne Whalley, Matthew Wolf
Publisher: LA Theatre Works
Duration: 1 hour 52 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

This comic masterpiece mocked the simple morality of sentimental comedies. Subtitled The Mistakes of a Night, the play is a lighthearted farce that derives its charm from the misunderstandings which entangle the well-drawn characters. Mr. Hardcastle plans to marry his forthright daughter Kate to bashful Marlow, the son of his friend Sir Charles Marlow. Mrs. Hardcastle wants her recalcitrant son Tony Lumpkin to marry her ward Constance Neville, who is in love with Marlow’s friend Hastings. Humorous mishaps occur when Tony dupes Marlow and Hastings into believing that Mr. Hardcastle’s home is an inn. By posing as a servant, Kate wins the heart of Marlow, who is uncomfortable in the company of wellborn women but is flirtatious with barmaids. A comedy in five acts by Oliver Goldsmith, produced and published in 1773.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I went into this book with very little expectation. I mean, it’s a supposed classic that I’ve never heard of, and drama isn’t my particular favorite. However, it was a free audiobook download from Sync this summer, and it was the recording of a theater production that included James Marsters (eek!). It’s also only a couple of hours long (not a huge commitment at all), so I decided to give it a go.

Um, why haven’t I heard of this play before? Because it’s hilarious! 20 minutes in, I was laughing non-stop and having a thoroughly good time. The fact that this is recorded theatre gives it a huge advantage, since the performers give their lines with perfect emphasis and tone. She Stoops to Conquer is a typical comedy that centers around mistaken identities, misunderstood situations, and marriage proposals, which is a combination that is always sure to amuse. All of the characters are funny and loveable, and the talent of the performers is unmistakable, even without being able to see them act it out.

I’m so glad that I had the chance to discover this play, and that I was able to do so in an audio format. I think that most plays are meant to be heard and/or seen, and I would definitely recommend staying away from the print and going straight to a performance or this audio version for She Stoops to Conquer. Many of the jokes wouldn’t be very funny without hearing the interaction between the characters and without hearing the inflections of the words.

The plot is fairly predictable; however, because of its simplicity and some of the extremely ludicrous characters (like Mrs. Hardcastle), I believe this was written as a parody of the mistaken identities type of play that Shakespeare is so famous for.

If you ever get the chance to listen to this, or see it performed, do so! It’s one of the funniest plays I’ve come across.

Book Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: The Hound of the Baskervilles
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Publisher: Signet
Paperback: 160 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Holmes and Watson are faced with their most terrifying case yet. The legend of the devil-beast that haunts the moors around the Baskerville families home warns the descendants of that ancient clan never to venture out in those dark hours when the power of evil is exalted. Now, the most recent Baskerville, Sir Charles, is dead and the footprints of a giant hound have been found near his body. Will the new heir meet the same fate?

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I first read this book sometime in elementary school, and I’m not going to say exactly how long it’s been since then, but suffice to say that I don’t really remember the story all that well. It’s been on my “need to read again” list for quite awhile, and then my sister got me hooked on the show Sherlock (you guys, SO GOOD!), and after watching their modern rendition of the story, I felt the need to go back to the original.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is probably one of the best known Sherlock Holmes novels. It’s about a man who has just become the heir to the Baskerville estate; the only thing is, the Baskerville family is cursed to die from a hellhound that comes out at night. And Sir Charles, the man’s predecessor, seems to have died from that very hound.

There’s a reason why the Sherlock Holmes stories have been adapted — and is currently being adapted — into movies, TV shows, and other novels: it’s just good fun. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a standard Holmes mystery and doesn’t contain any real surprises or material that can’t be found in his other stories. However, as one of the longer stories, there is much more time to fully develop the characters and intrigues, which is nice. I always love seeing the relationship between Watson and Holmes. Also, I think that this story has some of the more interesting side characters that I’ve found in Doyle’s works.

The characters are familiar and loveable, especially Watson. God, do I love Watson. In this particular novel, there are so many surprises, I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. It’s also nice to read from one of the authors who has inspired today’s detective genre. I will say, however, that the novel has a fairly direct solution to the mystery (not nearly as complicated, or unfortunately, as intriguing, as Sherlock’s rendition). But overall, I enjoyed reading this story and think that any Sherlock Holmes or detective mystery fan will like it just as much.

Book Review: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker
Publisher: Pocket
Paperback: 295 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

The Color Purple is about a black woman named Celie who goes from being abused and raped by her father to abused by her husband, a man she hardly knows. Her story is told by herself through letters to God or, occasionally, her sister. When she meets a singer named Shug, Celie has a sort of coming-of-age and learns how to find joy in life.

My favorite part about this book is how uplifting it is, despite all the horrible situations these characters face. Even though Celie is abused by her father, and then later her husband, Shug helps her to find things to be happy about. For me, this helped the story become more complex and realistic. The books I’ve previously read about abuse are generally negative and have nothing positive to bring a balance to it. And really, I think that’s what makes The Color Purple such a classic: it’s an important cultural story about African-American life, and everyone can benefit from reading about how Celie transcends her circumstances to become a happy and fulfilled person.

The one thing that bothered me a little bit is that I thought the ending was rushed and tacked-on. It was a bit over-the-top happy-go-lucky, which is fine, because I like happy stories, but I think that a little more time could have been spent in resolving the issues.

Other than that, it was a great read with a lot of ideas to think about and reflect on, especially those dealing with religion and feminism. As a student teacher, I’m constantly evaluating my personal reading choices to see if they can fit in a classroom, and I definitely can see myself teaching The Color Purple. (Many people do, I know, but now I see why.) I think that everyone needs to read this at least once in their lives. It’s beautiful, moving, and full of interesting ideas about how we currently live and how we should live.

Book Review: Magic for Marigold by LM Montgomery

Title: Magic for Marigold
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Publisher: Starfire
Paperback: 274 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The eccentric Lesley family could not agree on what to name Lorraine’s new baby girl even after four months. Lorraine secretly liked the name Marigold, but who would ever agree to such a fanciful name as that? When the baby falls ill and gentle Dr. M. Woodruff Richards saves her life, the family decides to name the child after the good doctor. But a girl named Woodruff? How fortunate that Dr. Richards’s seldom-used first name turns out to be . . . Marigold! A child with such an unusual name is destined for adventure. It all begins the day Marigold meets a girl in a beautiful green dress who claims to be a real-life princess. . .

 

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

If you’ve read any books by L.M. Montgomery before, then you pretty much know what to expect with this one — and adventurous child growing up during the 1920’s in Canada. She likes to daydream, has a little bit of sass, and gets into quite a bit of trouble. I don’t think that this novel is as strong as Montgomery’s other novels, but Marigold and her family members are still enjoyable characters who get into some fun predicaments.

What I think was missing from this novel was a central theme or focus; the book didn’t really go anywhere and while there was some small amount of personal growth for Marigold, it wasn’t enough to warrant the length of the book. But that was the only thing that I had trouble with — I loved reading about Marigold’s adventures, and this book certainly has some laugh-out-loud moments. Basically, it’s a decent enough read if you have the time or if you’re a Montgomery fan. But I would suggest that you read Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables or Emily of New Moon series before you pick up this one.

Audiobook Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Title: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams
Series: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Book 1
Narrator: Stephen Fry
Publisher: Books on Tape
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 5 hours, 51 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Don’t leave earth without this story of the end of the world and the happy-go-lucky days that follow. The writing of New York Times Best-selling author, Douglas Adams, has been brilliantly successful on both sides of the Atlantic in radio, television, theatre and spoken word audio.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

I loved this book! It’s hilarious — I was laughing out loud almost through the entire thing, and I thought it showed some pretty insightful observations about life, people, and the world in general.

It starts off with Arthur, a man from Earth who is trying to save his house from being torn down to build a new bypass on the land. He’s friends with Ford Prefect, a man from Betelgeuse 5 who is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and who has been stranded on Earth for fifteen years. In the beginning of the novel, Earth is destroyed to make room for a sort of intergalactic bypass. However, Ford saves his friend Arthur, transporting them onto a nearby spaceship. Crazy adventures ensue.

At first glance, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may seem ridiculous and random for it’s own sake. However, Adams has crafted a novel that speaks about how it is to live life. Sometimes, weird stuff happens and you just have to go with it. Like Arthur, we will find ourselves in strange situations, completely out of our element, and we will need to figure out a way to get through it. And maybe, just maybe, we take ourselves too seriously sometimes.

As for the narration — well, it was narrated by Stephen Fry, so I think that’s enough to tell you that it’s amazing.  He brings such personality to the characters that it’s hardly like reading a book at all. Rather, it’s more like being a bystander in events taking place.

I highly recommend this book. It’s funny, insightful, and a true classic.