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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I finished Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens a while back, and I really enjoyed it.  Be forewarned, though: if you can’t stomach reading about people living in dire poverty, skip this one.  The basic premise of the story is Oliver Twist, a young orphan boy, gets sent to a work house outside of London.  The work house was an invention by politicians of the day—the day being the 1800’s—to keep orphans off the streets.  The problem with the work houses, however, was that they were severely underfunded, so the residents subsisted on the most meager amounts of daily rations imaginable (if you’ve seen the movie “Oliver Twist,” the musical version that won the Academy Award for best picture, think “gruel,” and the song with that title that the kids all sing when eating it in the work house).  Added to that were overseers, people who managed the houses and also lived there, who were cruel to the children.  This combination of a scarce food supply and overseers without a heart for children created conditions that made for a miserable existence for the residents.

Oliver does get out of the work house, however, and gets in with a group of thieving, miscreant kids and teens and their masters Bill Sykes and Fagin, who basically own the kids, providing them with food and shelter and taking almost all of the money and goods that they steal each day (what they don’t take for themselves they give to the kids).  They basically own the kids because without them the kids would have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat.  Let it be known that Sykes is the most ruthless, most violent, and most heartless villain I have ever encountered in literature, and there probably is no book where a villain tops him in those three qualities.  The words that come to mind when thinking of Sykes’ behavior and crimes are depraved and heinous.  If you think it will bother you to read about Sykes, please skip this novel.

On the upshot, through reading the book the reader gets to see what living in 19th-century London and its surrounding area was like, and what the people were like who lived there during that time (what their dress was like, how they talked, their mannerisms, etc.).  That is one of the great things about this novel and one of the great things about any novel that take place in the past: a novel that takes place is a snapshot of what it was like to live in that place at that time.  I also really like the book because Dickens was a really masterful storyteller; he knew how to spin a yarn.  He ended each chapter in a way that leaves the reader wanting to know what’s going to happen in the next one. Another thing I like about this novel and the other I’ve read by Dickens so far, Great Expectations, is that they both feature main characters (Oliver, and Pip in Great Expectations) who have tenacious perseverance and endurance in trying to improve their lives in the face of oppressive living conditions.  (Dickens, it is well know, was a very outspoken social critic, and in Oliver Twist the point he wanted to make as a social critic was that the politicians of the day in London should have dealt with orphans in a good, life-affirming way, not by sending them to the deplorable work houses.)  So, do Oliver and Pip improve their lives in the end?  You will have to read the books to find out!

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

InfernoI don’t recommend wasting your time with this book.  It reads like a travel guide to Florence and Venice, Italy, not like a novel.  While I enjoyed Brown’s previous efforts, The Lost Symbol, and The DaVinci Code (especially the latter), this one is not in their league, although it features the same central character, Robert Langdon.  One would hope Brown gets back to writing story and relegating the factual information about the places and artworks of his novels to a supporting role in the background.  That’s really all that needs to be said about this disappointing book.

Rating (out of five stars): 0

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Review: The Host by Stephanie Meyer

***CONTAINS SPOILERS***

This book is AWESOME!! One of the best I’ve ever read, for sure. If you like science fiction, this book is a must-read. Without giving too much of the book away, it is the story of a future earth where an alien species, whose members look like silver furry centipedes–but bigger than centipedes, they would fill the palm of your hand if you held them–invades earth. Once they get to earth they kill almost all of the humans on the planet. Each alien is then inserted into the body of a human, hence the title of the book: after insertion, each alien then has a “host” body.

Earth is not the only planet they take over, either; they have taken over several other planets. Life carries on for the aliens in their host bodies in much the same way as humans conduct their lives today. However, a small group of humans has survived. They stay alive by raiding the houses of the aliens for food and supplies. although they grow some of their own food of their own in their hidden network of underground caves in the desert.

There is a doctor among the humans, and all of the humans are hopeful that he can figure out how to remove the aliens from the bodies of humans and bring the humans back afterward; that way they can reclaim the human race on earth and vanquish the aliens. Concerning the writing, Meyer has such a gift of creating characters that you want to get to know and spend time with. Also, her settings have plenty of description and are written in such a way that they give you the feeling that you’re right there with the characters.

Rating (out of five stars): 5

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Review: Twilight

I had a lot of fun reading this book.  It reminds me of the Dollanganger series, by V.C. Andrews.  Remember her?  If you don’t, she was the author of Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, and the other two books in the Dollanganger series.  I read those books very quickly when I was in middle school; today they remain some of my very favorite books.  What reminds me of them in Twilight is that Twilight, like the Dollanganger series, is essentially about a family and the extraordinary problems they face: In Flowers in the Attic, the family is two young children, twins, and two teenagers, who have been locked in the attic of their sadistic grandmother’s mansion.  This family is very close.  Edward Cullen, one of the two main characters of Twilight, is also a member of a very close-knit family.  Without giving things about the book away that I shouldn’t, the Cullen family faces a different sort of problem than the Dollanganger family faces: the Cullen’s have a supernatural problem.

The other main character in Twilight is Bella Swan, a 17-year old who has just relocated to Forks, Washington from Phoenix.  Bella is a pale-skinned brunette, attractive, into literature, and calamity prone.  Her tendency to be calamity prone adds a great deal of much appreciated humor to the book.  There are some very funny parts and lines in the book that have to do with this.

Kudos to author Stephanie Meyer for doing a great job describing Forks, where most of the book is set.  Forks seems like another character in the book, and it’s the perfect place for the story to be set; you’ll have to read the book to know what I mean.  Aside from that, the usually overcast skies, large amount of rain, and abundance of green foliage gave me a new appreciation for Seattle and the part of Washington where Forks is and places with this type of climate.

Getting back to the Dollanganger series, the main thing I liked about it was that I really cared about the good characters in the family I was reading about; I felt like I was back in high school, a good friend of theirs, and that I was right there with them as the journey that is their story unfolded.  I got the same feeling when reading Twilight: I felt like I was back in high school when I was reading it, hanging around at school with my good friends Bella and Edward and the other characters who are their friends in the book, and going over to the Cullens’ house and Bella’s house, where much of the book is set.  Meyer did a great job of creating realistic characters that readers really like and want to root for.

Twilight is also an out-of-the-ordinary love story.  Although the romance between Bella and Edward is out of the ordinary (and you’ll have to read the book to know what I mean), the feelings of anyone who has fallen in love with someone are there.  When I read it I remembered what it was like to fall in love, and what a great gift from God falling in love and finding a spouse is.  One more thing about about Twilight: it becomes a suspenseful thriller toward the end, and it has the perfect cliffhanger ending.  After I finished reading it I couldn’t wait to dive into the next book to see what happens.  And Meyer deserves much thanks for giving us not just a sequel to Twilight, but three more installments of the Twilight saga after Twilight!  Is Twilight “the best book ever,” as it was voted on the website Goodreads by readers?  I won’t say it’s the best book ever, but I do place it at least in the top ten in the best books I’ve ever read.

Rating: 5 (out of 5 stars)

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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