The Picture of Dorian Gray, a review

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a well known classic. Which makes it even more odd that I somehow didn’t know the concept of this book before going in! Odd or not, I knew nothing about this before I opened it up (thanks blurb for not actually telling me anything about the book) so it was an experience.

If, like me, you know nothing about this book, it follows a young man who has his portrait painted by a (slightly obsessed) artist. This painting then takes on any physical changes to Dorian, both ages, and changes as his personality worsens, whilst Dorian’s face stays exactly the same.

Once I had gathered the concept, the rest of the book was then pretty predictable. I actually wrote a rough draft of what I thought was going to happen when I was about 3 chapters into the book and I wasn’t wrong!

Highlight here if you want to see my prediction: He’ll do some evil shit, see his painting again after years and then have a breakdown at how his life has been awful and this is the true him. Or at least that’s my prediction.

This is quite a short little book, and I of course don’t want to spoil it for you. So I don’t think I’ll say much more, past that the characters were interesting to read from and to see how they changed over the years.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 5, Atmosphere: 5, Writing: 6, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 6, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 6, which gives an average of 6 for the score and a 3.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: murder, death, misogyny, suicide, blood, antisemitism, violence, toxic friendship, sexism, racism, addiction, gaslighting, drug abuse, toxic relationship, drug use, gore, racial slurs, suicidal thoughts, injury, body horror, body shaming, emotional abuse, grief, alcohol, gun violence, homophobia, mental illness, suicide attempt, outing, colonisation.

Overall, this is an interesting classic, and I adored the concept. But for some reason the execution just didn’t vibe with me. I might have to reread this one in the future, now that I know the concept, and see if my opinions change at all.

Have you read Dorian Gray or anything else from Wilde? What did you think? Tell me down below!

Frankenstein – a review

The wonderful Caitlyn from Mad Cheshire Rabbit gifted me this book earlier on this year. Purely to force me to read it because she knew I wouldn’t until I had a physical copy in my hands! 😂 This book, as many know, follows a man named Frankenstein who aims to create life artificially and succeeds. In pop culture this is shown as a big, green, monster who he eventually manages to bring to life. And then who causes destruction. But how accurate is this?

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Not at bloody all is the answer. When I heard this being described as gothic and with the pop culture references (although to be fair I’ve never seen an “adaptation”) I was expecting the crux of this to be the creation of the monster itself and the immediate struggle afterwards. I found a much different novel instead. The creation of the creature actually happens much earlier on in the book. It’s not the crux point at all.

This was a really big surprise for me, but we then got to discuss the concepts of life. Of exclusion and of treating fellow man the way we would wish to be treated. There are discussions of life and death, and so many unique and interesting topics! I wasn’t expecting philosophy!

But what I really had not been expecting? Was to love this book. I was reading this purely because it’s Caitlyn’s favourite. That was the only reason. But I adored this. It was such a lovely read. I adored all of the topics which Shelley brought up within the text as well as the main plot of the book itself. It’s a wonderful book and I can totally understand why it has lasted the decades (and centuries!) after its publication.

One point I would like to make is that I found the ending of the book very predictable, despite it feeling like it was supposed to be a twist. However, most likely this is because the book was published in EIGHTEEN EIGHTEEN and so at the time this probably was a twist!!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: attempted murder, child death, death, depression, islamophobia, murder, parental abandonment, xenophobia

For my CAWPILE ratings I gave:

Characters: 9

Atmosphere: 8

Writing: 6

Plot: 7

Intrigue: 8

Logic: 5

Enjoyment: 7

For an overall rating of 7.14 which comes out at a 4*! I’m so glad that Caitlyn gave me the push needed to pick this one up and I might have to read more from Shelley in the future!

Samuel Nowak – a review

Samuel Nowak, by Caitlyn J Bolton, is a historical fiction which follows one young man as he immigrates from Russia to England. He has a hard childhood, with rocky relationships. He does however have a wonderful friend with whom he goes to university and then they both go on to start families of their own. This is in the early 20th Century however, and a weak man must learn to live through hard times, and a Great War. How will he survive?

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I’m going to tell you straight off that I’m biased in this review. Caitlyn is the wonderful woman behind Mad Cheshire Rabbit and one of my best bookish friends. So yeah, just a wee bit of bias here! However, I’ve done my very best to be subjective in how I rated this book. So fingers crossed this is still a decent review, but I thought I should let you know upfront.

Now onto the review of the book itself. I liked it! I will say, to start with a negative, that from the synopsis I had been expecting the book to take place more within the setting of the Great War itself, rather than leading up to the event. And I also wasn’t expecting as much discussion and philosophising. I have read more classics since reading this, however. Which is a genre that Caitlyn loves and I hadn’t been overly exposed to, and this really does fall in line with those. I think the book that I could closest match it to in emotive feeling would be Frankenstein. It has the same layout of discussing family, discussing the wrongs that were carried out with the best of intentions but which hurt people, and being focused around, but not on, a large event.

If you enjoy reading classics I really do recommend picking up Samuel Nowak, genuinely. I know I’m biased but I really do think that this is a great first book from Caitlyn and I can’t wait to read more books that she writes!

For my CAWPILE ratings I gave:

  • characters: 7
  • atmosphere: 5
  • writing: 6
  • plot: 7
  • intrigue: 7
  • logic: 6
  • enjoyment: 6

For an overall 6.29 which is a 3*. To be quite honest, this was me trying not to be too biased. I would much rather rate it 4*s, but I’m worried that if I rate it too highly people will think I just like it cause I like Caitlyn!

Please do give this book a go, barely anyone has read it and I need more people to give their opinions on the book!!!

Highlight for trigger warnings: child abuse, alcohol abuse, war, war trauma, physical injuries, miscarriage, mental illness

If you have read this please let me know what you thought!

First Lines Friday #22

It’s time for another First Lines Friday! Hosted by Wandering Words!!

What if, instead of judging a book by its cover or its author, we judged the book by its opening lines?

Here is how it works:

– Pick a book and open to the first page.

– Copy the first few lines without revealing which book it is.

– Reveal the book!

So… do these first lines entice you?

I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society.

Scroll down to reveal the book!

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A shorter quote today but the next section mentioned Heathcliff by name and that’s just too easy! This was gifted to me by the wonderful Caitlyn from Mad Cheshire Rabbit as it’s one of her favourite classics, so I’ll have to get around to it sometime soon! She also gifted me Frankenstein which I’ve read already and really enjoyed, so I’m hopeful for this. But I’ve heard people say you either like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre and I adored Jane Eyre… buuuuuttt I’m hoping I buck the trend. Have you read this English classic?

War and Peace Mini Review – Book 2

We’ve finished another chapter!! This is up a wee bit late in comparison to when the events happened, but on the 10th February me and Olivia officially finished Book 2 of War and Peace! This was a shorter chapter than the last, only coming in at 70 pages compared to the previous books 85. But that 15 pages? Wow, it felt like it was so much shorter!! How odd!

So far me and Olivia are having pretty similar views on the book, in that we both didn’t enjoy this war focus chapter as much as we enjoyed the peace based one. Whilst the focus on individuals works when we’re learning about society politics during peace times, with it allowing the reader to see the nuances between different points of view and political strategies, during war it just lost me. Often the individual we’re following has no clue what is happening on a wider scale, different parties on the same side are bad at communicating with one another and being in the middle of a battle is just disorientating. Whilst all of these reasons are why I didn’t enjoy these chapters as much as the last book, I do have to say that they show, in my opinion, a really well grasped concept of war during these times. The reason I’m confused and don’t know what is going on is because the individual’s we’re following would have been and it seems to be an accurate representation of war. I did also like that when some big positive news is reported to those as the very top of command, with the rider believing he is of great import, it’s a bit of a reality check when he realises that on a grand scale their win at their battle means little to the campaign and that even when we do get to comprehend what is going on with the troops we’re following that doesn’t mean we understand anything about the larger battle taking place.

Continuing from that, what I did also find very interesting in this chapter was the soldier’s viewpoints on war throughout. Prior to being in any battles they all seem very eager to get into the fighting, wanting to prove themselves for the glory of Russia and believing it to be quite poetic. When they’re in the battle, however, for many of them that goes completely out of the window as the realities of war sink in. I also enjoyed how each character has a different point of view on war after their battle is over. Some seem to have genuinely enjoyed themselves, this is mostly the upperclassmen who were on horseback and commanding people around. Whereas those on the ground seem to fall into either re-glorifying war after the battle has ended in a manner which seems very much like a PTSD reaction, burying reality deep down in order to carry on, or they’re coming face to face with its realities and wishing that they were back home where they were safe and scared with how the war is going to continue.

From this book my favourite three characters were Rostov, Tushin, and Andrew. Andrew is Prince Andrew, one of those we met in book 1 who has moved to the battlefield. Whilst in Russian high society he seemed reserved, uncomfortable and like he just wants to sink into the background, here on the battlefield he seems vibrant and full of life. The world of commanding battles seems to do him good and he is strong, thoughtful and much happier with his life. Rostov is a general foot soldier we follow. To compare to the peaceful chapters, he’s the war chapters Pierre. We love him! We don’t know him as well as a person, because we’ve only seen him as a soldier, but he also seems like a good man, peaceful and caring, and one we’re looking forward to following in future chapters. Lastly there’s Tushin. Staff Captain Tushin leads a group of men within the Russian army (no I don’t know the proper term and no I’m not going to look it up. We were calling him Mr T in our messages just be glad I checked his name!). He seems to really care for his men and was solidly holding ground without any of the help that should’ve been provided to him. In fact he made the French believe the majority of the Russian forces were with him and his guns! (they were most certainly not).

Overall, on reflection I quite enjoyed this war book, but during the reading itself it wasn’t as enjoyable as the peace book that came before. Next up we’re returning to Moscow and to Pierre and I’m very excited! After the developments at the end of book 1 his life is going to be quite dramatically changed and I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles all of this!

The First Poirot Short Story Collection!

Book three in the Poirot series, and the first collection of short stories. These tales don’t have any linking between them other than Poirot being the great detective to solve them all!

I love reading Agatha Christie, I speed through the books so fast and struggle to put them down. I really enjoy short story collections as well, and read through those super fast, so this mixture of the two was bound to be a success for me.

The Short Stories:

1. The Adventure of The Western Star
2. The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor
3. The Adventure of The Cheap Flat
4. The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge
5. The Million Dollar Bond Robbery
6. The Adventure of The Egyptian Tomb
7. The Jewel Robbery at The Grand Metropolitan
8. The Kidnapped Prime Minister
9. The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim
10. The Adventure of The Italian Nobleman
11. The Case of The Missing Will

I enjoyed all 11 of these and absolutely sped through this book, if you like a traditional mystery then this is an obvious pick up. Although to be fair I don’t need to recommend Christie. I hopefully will be able to read all of her books and complete my collection one day, as I really love her works.

Set it on fire and watch it burn

A classic, one of the dystopian books. I’d always planned on reading it, but I was never very active about it until I saw that my flatmate had the book and so I asked to borrow it. I didn’t really know what to expect from the book, other than books burning, so I went in with quite an open mind. I was also quite hopeful because of how The Handmaid’s Tale had turned out for me. Sadly, not quite the case here.

I did give the book 4*, but it was more like a very high 3. I loved the concept, the destroying of knowledge to further enable a political party to retain their power over the population. The brainwashing of individuals to believe that this is the right course of action, with their walls of TV’s taking them away from the drudgery of real life. However, there was something a little… off, about how it was written.

I really didn’t like our main character, his viewpoint seemed kind of stilted and not natural at all which made the reading experience an awkward one. And honestly, that’s what brought this book down for me. Of course, I didn’t hate the book, as I still gave it a high rating, however, this part was disappointing.

I did enjoy the plot progression and the slow dawning of understanding, as well as the way in which the book ended. I won’t spoil anything here but I liked the feel of the result of all this action at the very end.

All in all, this book isn’t the standout star I’d been hoping it would be, but it’s still a great dystopian work and a good look at society. So if you want to read it, go ahead!

A little taster of Emily Bronte

This book is one of the “Little Black Classics” from Penguin, meaning it’s incredibly short at only 55 pages. I borrowed it from my flatmate Becca as she was ripping pages out for her art project and I wanted to read them before she did that! (The art looked hella cool btw).

This is a small collection of poetry from Emily Bronte that is quite dark and broody, and I haven’t actually read any of her works as a prose writer before so delving into her poetry was interesting. Given that they’re from a while ago, they aren’t anything new, although they may have been at the time.

Instead, they’re just an interesting insight into how her mind was running at this point in time and are an interesting quick little read. Honestly, I don’t have much else to say about this tiny collection, but considering the price (cheap as chips) it could be a good starter to try out before ultimately purchasing a bigger collection of poetry by Emily Bronte.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

This one is a classic, and a short one at that, but I find that people (like me until recently) just don’t happen to read it unless it’s on their school curriculum. We follow farm animals who decide to rebel against their cruel masters and run their own lives. It starts out so well, but slowly descends into communism and we watch the animals be manipulated and deceived.

I have now read both Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell’s two most well known and talked about books. I have given them both the same rating of 4 stars, although I did enjoy them both neither were new favourites. I find that there’s just something about his writing that doesn’t fully gel with me, which is a real pity.

I did really enjoy seeing the animals attempt to remember what had been promised before and also attempting to read so that they could see the written rules for themselves. It was sad to see them fail though, as this is obviously based off of real life and communist leaders. I believe this could be a good way to bring up the topic to younger people and I can see why this is taught in schools so frequently, but I also think that if the reader is too young they might not realise the connotations without prompting.

This is a classic, and one I believe you should read, but don’t worry if you feel like you aren’t getting all of the references. I definitely didn’t! But I got the overall vibe and that’s all that was really needed, the rest is just a bonus. So if you were thinking of going through it I recommend giving it a go! You might really enjoy it, and even if it isn’t your new favourite, it’s a quick read that’ll likely make you think.

Jane Eyre. Yes, she’s worth it

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I finally got around to it! I read an abridged version of Jane Eyre as a child and really enjoyed the story and plotline, it’s only taken me a little while well over a decade to actually pick up the unabridged full edition and actually read it! This book can be long-winded, and rather annoying at points with that, and can feel like it’s dragging, which I feel is just something that has to be dealt with when it comes to classics from this time period. However, the actual plot of the book is amazing and something I’m very glad I’ve read in full. If you feel you can manage the old language and way of writing then you should hopefully enjoy the story within. The beginning of the book focuses on Janes young life, starting from her childhood in her Aunt’s home and moving onto the boarding school she is stationed at. I loved seeing her childhood and learning how she developed into the woman who makes many difficult decisions in the later parts of this book. There are various plot twists and turns, which I don’t want to go into so I don’t spoil anything! But they will entertain you and make you want to read until the end, and I the only real part of this book that I’m disappointed with is that we don’t get to learn more about Janes later life!! A truly lovely classic with a beautiful storyline that is worth persevering through the tough language.