_astridedwards_'s reviews
63 reviews

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

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5.0

After more than twenty years since publication, The Secret History is still the only novel I have come across that captures the intensity, isolation and rapture that comes with studying the Classics under the sway of an enigmatic teacher.
Richard Papen is the 'unreliable narrator' in the tradition of Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. Camilla Macaulay is the mysterious, doomed Classical woman. And Henry Winter is the embodiment of the flawed hero, the removed intellectual, the failed Ideal Man.
A brilliant debut. A modern day tragedy. And reminder that the past will always influence us.
The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje

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5.0

Set in North Africa and Italy during the last days of WWII, [b:The English Patient|11713|The English Patient|Michael Ondaatje|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320527907s/11713.jpg|3009869] is a sweeping narrative of love, loss, betrayal and redemption.

Who can forget the story of Count Ladislaus de Almásy? The love of Katherine Clifton? The innocence of Hana? The pain of David Caravaggio? And the humanity of Kirpal Singh?

The novel captures the breakdown between English and German at the personal level, as loyalty to country superseded dedication to science and career.

[b:The Histories|1362|The Histories|Herodotus|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1399225547s/1362.jpg|488198] by [a:Herodotus|901|Herodotus|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1397190927p2/901.jpg] features throughout, as the spiritual guide and last remaining possession of Almásy.

[a:Michael Ondaatje|4030|Michael Ondaatje|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1390116915p2/4030.jpg] was truly deserving of the Booker Prize in 1992. And the movie was a surprisingly good adaptation and received a swathe of Academy Awards in 1996.
Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, by Shaun Usher

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5.0

[b:Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience|18078311|Letters of Note An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience|Shaun Usher|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1372089448s/18078311.jpg|25384959] is based on a simple yet brilliant concept, and is wonderfully executed.
[a:Shaun Usher|7135502|Shaun Usher|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1371530750p2/7135502.jpg] has collated some of the most famous letters and notes of history (think of what the alternative draft for the moon landing said in the event that it was not a success), and interspersed them with personal letters of the average men and women whose thoughts are so rarely recorded by history (think of the letter a single mother left with her baby on the steps of an English orphanage).
This is a work you will dip into again and again to read the letters that most strike a cord with you. And after you enjoy this, you will no doubt want to follow up with the second book, [b:Lists of Note|23123095|Lists of Note|Shaun Usher|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1409325539s/23123095.jpg|42671897].
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

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4.0

[b:Still Alice|23280232|Still Alice|Lisa Genova|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1418615024s/23280232.jpg|2158906] was published in 2007, and Julianne Moore won a Best Actress Oscar for playing the protagonist at the 2015 Academy Awards.
Alice, a wildly successful linguistics Professor at Harvard University, has early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. The novel chronicles her efforts to slow the progression of the disease and her inevitable loss of self. Written from Alice's point of view, we see her grieve for herself and for her family, withdraw from her career, plan for her own suicide, and finally succumb, unaware, to her fate.
[b:Still Alice|23280232|Still Alice|Lisa Genova|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1418615024s/23280232.jpg|2158906] - the novel and the movie - bring Alzheimer's to the fore of public consciousness. What makes this work unique is that [a:Lisa Genova|978484|Lisa Genova|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1410537635p2/978484.jpg] is a neuroscientist herself. She writes with honesty and authority on her subject matter, and leaves mawkish sentiment aside. This is not only important for awareness of Alzheimer's Disease, but for all of the misunderstood chronic neurological diseases common today.
Dracula, by Bram Stoker

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5.0

At the close of the 19th century, [a:Bram Stoker|6988|Bram Stoker|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1202438456p2/6988.jpg] brought existing vampire lore to life with his tale of Count Dracula. The books and movies that have come since (everything from [a:Anne Rice|7577|Anne Rice|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1383250078p2/7577.jpg]'s [b:Interview with the Vampire|43763|Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles, #1)|Anne Rice|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1380631642s/43763.jpg|873132] to [a:Stephanie Myers|2802661|Stephanie Myers|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/u_50x66-632230dc9882b4352d753eedf9396530.png]'s [b:The Twilight Saga|3090465|The Twilight Saga (Twilight, #1-4)|Stephenie Meyer|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327930511s/3090465.jpg|6440505]) owe Stoker an imaginative and literary debt.
In this tale, Count Dracula lures Jonathan Harker to the Carpathian Mountains on a pretence of business. After disturbing encounters with three wanton female vampires, Harker escapes and returns to England. However, he soon finds that Dracula has made his way to London itself and has designs on Harker's fiancée, Mina Murray, as well as her friend Lucy Westenra. Harker and John Seward, the fiancé of Lucy, turn to Abraham van Helsing (as well as two other unsuccessful suitors for the women) for assistance.
The men seek to protect Mina and Lucy from the influence of Dracula, without giving into the darkness themselves.
To this day, [b:Dracula|588495|Dracula|Bram Stoker|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1394828802s/588495.jpg|3165724] remains the bedrock of the vampire genre.
The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman

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4.0

The first of a ten-part series, [b:The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes|13095977|The Sandman Vol. 1 Preludes & Nocturnes |Neil Gaiman|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1336522806s/13095977.jpg|1228437] is a mesmerising introduction to Dream.
Dream, otherwise known as Morpheus, is of the Endless - the seven immortal beings who preside over the way things are. We also meet Death, his sister, and a sampling of the Justice League (although you don't need to know of them to enjoy the work).
Reading the rest of this graphic novel series is high on my to-do list.
Why I Write, by George Orwell

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3.0

While his politics is no longer relevant, [a:George Orwell|3706|George Orwell|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1374989696p2/3706.jpg]'s literary insights will never date.
Two of the four essays in this short work [b:Why I Write|9644|Why I Write|George Orwell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388379786s/9644.jpg|1070685] concentrate on the art of writing: 'Why I write' and 'Politics and the English language'.
This quote (from page 10) says it all:
'All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand'.
Brother Night, by Victor Kelleher

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5.0

[b:Brother Night|3651408|Brother Night|Victor Kelleher|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1364590171s/3651408.jpg|2615310] was one of the formative books of my childhood. Twenty-five year later I am still moved by the story, and to be honest, I will be at risk of crying likeI did as a young teenager when I read it again.
Ramon, the son of the Sun Lord and the Moon Witch, is faced with a dark choice: to follow in the politicking or to embrace a new path. Lal, a deformed outcaste with uncertain parentage, shows Ramon a different way to live and the way things can be.
A beautiful journey for young adults to go on, with a lesson that will stay with them for life.
The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, by Christopher Booker

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3.0

The first third of this book (Part One: The Seven Gateways to the Underworld) is brilliant. If you are a writer, take a look. I will reread this section, and the three star rating belongs to this section only.
The second third (Part Two: The Complete Happy Ending) is not so bad. There are insights here, but as a reader you will have to wade through repetitive prose to find them.
The final third (Part Three: Missing the Mark and Part Four: Why We Tell Stories) shouldn't be in this book at all, and I found myself flipping through pages.
In short, this book needs a good edit. It feels like an overwrought thesis that the author couldn't let go of - the writing is sloppy and there are several hundred pages more than required to make the point.
Animalia, by Graeme Base

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5.0

[b:Animalia|1386650|Animalia|Graeme Base|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388195879s/1386650.jpg|2347064] won the Young Australian's Best Book Award in 1987 for Best Picture Story Book.
And there is a reason why [b:Animalia|1386650|Animalia|Graeme Base|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388195879s/1386650.jpg|2347064] is still in print almost three decades after its original publication: it is timeless.
An alphabet book at heart, each page is lavishly illustrated with real animals and fantastical scenarios. As an added bonus for the intrepid young reader, a little boy is hidden in each page, waiting to be found.
These days there are many different formats, including [b:My First Animalia|20442295|My First Animalia|Graeme Base|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|31067116], a simplified version for even younger readers learnings their ABCs.