I’ve got so many mini reviews for you today! I’ve been going through a massive writing slump, and so, naturally, this has taken a toll on the number of reviews I’ve been putting out. I’m hopeful that this slump will end soon, as I feel bad for these books as I haven’t been able to sit down and write a full, dedicated review to them. So, when in a writing slump, turn to Mini Reviews to help get through it!
Anyways, lots to get to in this post, and perhaps this post will help me out of my writing slump!
***this post contains affiliate links. The links to Amazon are affiliate links which means that if you click the link and make a purchase, then I receive a small commission***
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I absolutely loved this book. Fahrenheit 451 is a shorter read, but it packs a powerful punch, and I found it chilling and disturbing. There’s a sense of impending doom throughout the read, and I found the scenes with the Mechanical Hound to be quite memorable and scary. Throughout the doom, gloom, and fire (so much fire!), I was still left with a hopeful sense at the end. The title is a reference to the temperature that paper burns at, and there was a lot of fire mentioned in this read! Have you seen the recent HBO adaptation of the book? I watched the trailer after reading this, read the spoilers for it online, and now I have no desire to watch the movie because it seems to be completely different than the book!
We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me?
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
A quietly powerful character study. The Ensemble is a contemporary fiction read set mainly in San Francisco and New York City, and the narrative bounces back and forth between four narrators, Brit, Jana, Henry, and Daniel, who are members of a string quartet. The book chronicles their journey to fame, and their relationships with each other and those outside of the quartet. If you enjoy slower paced character studies with a focus on music, this is the book for you! I was entranced by this read, and it pulled me in to the lives of these four characters.
Love is inexact, Henry said. It is not a science. It is barely a noun. It means one thing to one person, and one thing to another. It means one thing to one person at one point and then something else at another point. It doesn’t make sense. We are gathered here today to not make sense. We are gathered here today to listen to the ineffable. I’m supposed to be explaining it, but I can’t explain it. I love you, it’s a mystery. Because it’s a mystery, we have to take care of it. Feed it. It can go missing, but we can’t tie it up. We can only tie it to someone else. Other people. Then the world is like this: full of the geometry of my rope tied to you, and to you, and yours tied to him, and to her, and hers to someone else. I love you, it’s a mystery.
Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan
Fascinating nonfiction about the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. While this read felt at many times like a long string of facts, it was still interesting and helped me learn a lot about how many of the world’s borders were decided after the end of World War I, and also how these decisions helped shape World War II, various other conflicts, and the world today. For those interested in world history, this is a book that shouldn’t be missed! While at many points it was dry, and felt like I was reading a textbook, there’s great information here. I found it handy to read this book with a map by my side, so I could visualize the places that were talked about.
If they could, they had to create an international order that would make another Great War impossible. And, of course, they had to draw up the treaties. Clearly Germany had to be dealt with, penalized for starting the war (or was it just for losing, as many suspected?), its future set on more pacific lines, its boundaries adjusted to compensate France in the West and the new nations in the East. Bulgaria had to have its treaty. So did the Ottoman empire. Austria-Hungary presented a particular problem, for it no longer existed. All that was left was a tiny Austria and a shaky Hungary, with most of their territory gone to new nations. The expectations of the Peace Conference were enormous; the risk of disappointment correspondingly great.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Beautifully stunning – one of my favorite books I’ve read this year! Circe tells the Greek mythology story of the goddess Circe. Circe lives quite the life, and we see the birthing of the Minotaur, the creation of the sea-monster Scylla, and we meet Odysseus on his long journey home. Throughout all of the characters that Circe comes across, the most interesting character we meet is Circe herself. Madeline Miller has crafted quite the tale here, as we read of Circe’s rise and fall, and dealings with the gods. I could not put this book down and it comes with my highest recommendations, but be warned, there are some dark topics in this read, so those looking for a cheerful, happy read may want to pick another title.
For a hundred generations, I had walked the world drowsy and dull, idle and at my ease. I left no prints, I did no deeds. Even those who had loved me a little did not care to stay.
Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow. I would have done that toil a thousand times to keep such power in my hands. I thought: this is how Zeus felt when he first lifted the thunderbolt.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
What a mystery! Is there a better, tighter mystery out there? And Then There Were None may be the best mystery I’ve ever read. And the thing of it is, I knew going in to the read whodunit. And I still was kept guessing and trying to figure it out, and at times I didn’t believe that I knew who the killer was. Unfortunately, the book has racist undertones that I didn’t quite catch until after I was finished, when I read the Wikipedia page about it, and so this has put somewhat of a damper on my enjoyment of the book. While it’s a well-done, classic closed circle mystery (one of my favorite types of mysteries), I’ve got that “modern reader” struggle that many have with so many classic reads.
“Any reason given?”
Blore said bitterly, “Mrs. Owen’s jewels. Mrs. Owen, my foot! I don’t believe there’s any such person.”
Again the forefinger of the judge stroked his lip, this time appreciatively.
“Your conclusions are, I think, justified,” he said. “Ulick Norman Owen! In Miss Brent’s letter, though the signature of the surname is a mere scrawl the Christian names are reasonably clear—Una Nancy—in either case, you notice, the same initials. Ulick Norman Owen—Una Nancy Owen—each time, that is to say, U.N. Owen. Or by a slight stretch of fancy, UNKNOWN!”
Vera cried, “But this is fantastic—mad!”
The judge nodded gently. He said, “Oh, yes. I’ve no doubt in my own mind that we have been invited here by a madman—probably a dangerous homicidal lunatic.”
How To Read Literature Like a Professor & How To Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
These books were both fun reads! Confession: I’ve never really studied literature at the college level. I’ve basically taken one entry-level college literature class, and so I wanted to read something fun about literature, literature terms, and analysis. I learned quite a bit in both of these reads. How to Read Literature Like a Professor was the first of the two books to come out, with How to Read Novels Like a Professor released later. I liked Literature best, probably because I read it first, as much of Novels felt like repetitive information. Foster discusses the importance of that first line and first page, and he has an interesting idea that there is nothing truly new – no new stories. Essentially what every story is discusses what it means to be human, and so many novels are inspired by other literature (classic works, fairy tales, the Bible, Shakespeare, etc). I found these books to be fun, quick reads that helped me add a bunch of other books to my TBR list. Will I analyze my reads more thoroughly after reading these books? Probably not. I read for fun, and I don’t like to analyze things to death, so I’ll continue on as a casual reader! But…reading these books has given me the urge to re-read Mrs Dalloway, a book I despised when I first read it. Who knows, maybe someday!
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Cute and fantastical! The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a classic children’s story that was turned into the famous movie, The Wizard of Oz. The book and the movie are very different, with the book being more childlike, obvious in its themes, and having a much wider narrative. I enjoyed the book, and wish we could see a faithful adaptation of the read, as I’d love to see the Emerald City displayed as written (it only appears green because everyone wears green colored spectacles), and many of the other lands that Dorothy and her friends explore. I found this read to be odd and charming, and I can see how it could capture a child’s imagination. I’m not sure I’ll go on to read the others in the series, simply because there are so many books out there to read and lately I’ve gotten to be terrible with finishing series! If I saw a boxed set at a garage sale or library sale I’d probably pick them up.
The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.”
“That is because you have no brains” answered the girl. “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.”
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
An interesting read about the life of actress Hedy Lamarr. The Only Woman in the Room tells Hedy Lamarr’s story, of her upbringing and first marriage to a wealthy Austrian with ties to Hitler, her subsequent escape, Hollywood stardom, and her invention of a technology that is now used in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. All of that sounds so exciting, and this read didn’t quite live up the excitement it could’ve had. I think my problem was that I just didn’t connect to Hedy. She was so composed, always saying the right thing, and hiding her emotions and I just felt like I never saw the true Hedy. I will say because I had read Paris 1919 prior to this, I understood a lot more of the motivations behind the Austrian Civil War and the political perspective of the time. While not a bad read, it failed to draw me in, and left me wanting more connection to the characters.
“You cannot treat this man as you’ve treated all those boys that came before, Hedy. When you tire of him, when he angers you, you cannot treat him as one of your past fripperies. The stakes are too high. Do you understand, Hedy?”
Papa had never spoken to me in such a way before. Was I making a horrible mistake?
“I understand,” I said, because what else could I say? I could hardly leave Friedrich Mandl, richest man in Austria and the Merchant of Death, at the altar.
“Good, because this is for life, Hedy. For all our lives.”
There you have it! Nine mini reviews and here’s hoping this launches me out of my writing slump!