Book Review: Cousin Phillis and Other Stories

Cousin Phillis and Other Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

Cousin Phillis and Other Tales
by Elizabeth Gaskell
4 out of 5 stars
I have such mixed feelings about this book. It’s a collection of short stories, and every single one is depressing! These are the saddest, most awful stories I have ever read. The real problem is that the writing is so brilliant that it really makes you care about the characters! So when everything goes wrong, it is absolutely heartbreaking.
Also most of the stories finish with a lot of unresolved questions. They end abruptly with someone’s death, and we aren’t told if the surviving characters go on to get married or live happy lives or buy back the farm or anything. Loose ends dangling everywhere! Agh! Very frustrating.
I couldn’t finish reading them, because I was getting too depressed.

Update 2021: I finished reading the last two stories in this collection “Curious if True” and “Cousin Phillis”. These stories were a bit happier and more structured, and I enjoyed them!

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Book Review: Bambi

Bambi by Felix Salten

by Felix Salten
4 out of 5 stars

Bambi is born in a peaceful thicket, and he explores the meadow with his mother. He makes friends with the woodland creatures, and meets two other fawns, Feline and Gobo.

As Bambi grows up, he learns that there is danger in the forest, and the human hunters are a constant terror. Bambi witnesses a young buck killed by a mysterious thunder, and hears the buck’s screams as the humans deliver the final death blow with a knife.

Bambi’s own family is threatened, and Bambi sees other creatures meet death when a duck is eaten by a fox, and later that same fox is killed by hunting dogs.

Bambi meets his own father, the Prince of the forest, and learns wisdom from him. Bambi learns how to elude the human hunters. Bambi grows up and falls in love and has children of his own. There is always the danger of the hunt like a shadow over Bambi’s life, but somehow life goes on.

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Book Review: The Making of a Marchioness

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Making of a Marchioness
by Frances Hodgson BurnettC.D. Williams (Illustrator)
3 out of 5 stars

Emily is an assistant to the rich high-class ladies in London, making her living by planning parties, running errands, and doing little things that no one else wants to do. She lives in a small apartment where she is good friends with her landlady, Mrs. Cupp. Emily is hired to help entertain at a country manor and organize the yearly fête for the village children. She befriends one of the guests, Lady Agatha, and encourages her to attract the attention of the most eligible rich bachelor at the manor, Lord Walderhurst. But his lordship seems unimpressed with any of the single ladies present, until he reveals his true feelings to the one woman who has caught his fancy.

I do enjoy this author’s writing style and the charm of the setting, but I didn’t really like this plot. It was pretty obvious who Lord Walderhurst was going to end up with, and I didn’t like the way the romance unfolded.

I also didn’t really like the characters. They are all rather shallow and drab. Emily is so perfect and so self-sacrificing that it got on my nerves. I wanted to like her, but she is so completely angelic that she doesn’t seem like a real person.

Lord Walderhurst is practically a non-entity. He has almost no dialogue, no personality, no charisma. He is taciturn and aloof with everyone. He admits that he is a selfish person, and he is looking for a wife who is unselfish. He is supposed to be the hero of the story, but I just hated him.

The supporting characters are made of cardboard. They have no depth at all. They serve their purpose to set the stage for Emily’s story and then they fade quietly into the background with no more substance than a stage prop.

However, I still enjoyed this story because I do love the charming writing style. It kept my attention and I read it all in one sitting! I would probably reread this book someday, because it just sweeps you away into this beautiful Victorian setting of grace and glamour.

Classic Book Review: Les Miserables

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables
by Victor Hugo

4 out of 5 stars
Jean ValJean is an ex-convict. Everywhere he goes he is shunned and reviled, but one old priest is kind to him. ValJean undergoes a change of heart, and determines to become respectable and good. He conceals his past, and becomes a philanthropist. He gives to the poor, supports the elderly and the orphaned, and shows kindness to a dying prostitute, Fantine. However, the police inspector Javert has not forgotten ValJean’s criminal past. Javert pursues ValJean into the crowded streets of Paris, stubbornly intent on bringing ValJean back to the galley prison for his past crimes.

I loved so many things about this book! The dramatic storyline was wonderful with so many compelling and complex characters. The writing is so powerful!

I loved that we get a very in-depth look into the inner struggles of each of the main characters. We see into their heart. We hear their thoughts. We look right into their innermost souls. And then when they make a decision and take action, it really means something profound because we have experienced all those internal workings that led up to that moment of action.

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Classic Book Review: Aunt Jane’s Nieces on Vacation

Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation by Edith Van Dyne

Aunt Jane’s Nieces on Vacation (Aunt Jane’s Nieces, Book 7)
by Edith Van Dyne (Pseudonym), L. Frank Baum
4 out of 5 stars

Patsy, Beth, and Louise are on vacation with their Uncle John at the farmhouse in Millville. When they hear someone complaining that there is no morning newspaper, they decide to start printing a paper of their own. Uncle John buys a printing press, and the girls do all the journalism and editing. They charge one penny for each paper, but are steadily losing money because of all the expenses. The local mill workers start riots, and local politicians try to bribe the editor. Is running a country newspaper more trouble than it’s worth?

I loved this funny story about the girls taking up journalism as their new hobby. You would think that the plot would be boring with such a peaceful and quiet country setting, but there is plenty of action and mystery.

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Book Review: Five Children and It

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

Five Children and It
by E. NesbitEdith Nesbit
5 out of 5 stars
Five siblings find a Psammead, a sand fairy, who agrees to grant them one wish every day. They wish for money, beauty, wings, and all manner of foolish things, and every wish somehow goes terribly wrong as the consequences catch up with them.

I always love this book every time I reread it! It’s so whimsical and charming. I just love the setting and the time period in the early 1900s.

The siblings are silly and cross and affectionate. They tease each other and fight and take care of each other. In other words, they are just like regular siblings.

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