Books for Children Classics

The Beautifull Cassandra – Jane Austen


I am 300 pages away from finishing Out, and 200 pages away from finishing The Master and Margarita, so with no book reviews looking likely to occur in the next few days I was looking for something quick and easy to review. I was totally unaware that any picture books by Jane Austen existed, so when I saw this little book amongst my book shop stock I was very intrigued.

It is a short story, which takes only a couple of minutes to read. It was written by Jane Austen when she was about 12-years-old, and tells the story of a young girl who falls in love with a hat and then proudly goes out in to the world.




In this edition the words are accompanied by beautiful pictures, reminiscent of Beatrix Potter, and I have to admit that these are the best part of the book. The words did nothing for me at all. If this had been written by anyone other than Jane Austen it wouldn’t have got anywhere near a printing press. The blurb states that:

It will have particular appeal to children.

I disagree. I don’t believe that children would enjoy this at all. My toddler might enjoy pointing to the frogs, but the words would be completely meaningless to them. I am impressed by the vocabulary of the twelve-year-old Jane Austen, but she still has a long way to go in the plot development area.  

I can only imagine that this book would appeal to Jane Austen fanatics, who are keen to study the development of her language. Anyone else shouldn’t bother to read it, unless you happen to find it in the library.

stars2 (for the illustrations)

If one of your favourite authors releases a book for children do you ever buy it?

1960s Classics Science Fiction

Foundation – Isaac Asimov


The Try Something New Mini-Challenge is hosted by Nymeth from Things Mean a Lot. It is part of the Dewey’s Books Challenge, hosted by Chris and Robin in Dewey’s memory,

The idea was to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. I teamed up with Rebecca from Rebecca Reads. As we both have an aversion to science fiction, we decided to read Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Her mini-challenge post is here.


Unfortuantely, neither of us liked the book at all! We somehow managed to get through to the end, and answered a few questions about it:

What were your initial impressions of the book?
Rebecca: I do not normally choose science fiction to read, but after some good experiences last year when my husband and I read Dune and Space Odyssey 2001 together, I came to appreciate it. I have of course heard of Isaac Asimov, so I was expecting Foundation to be a great example of the master of science fiction. From the beginning of my reading, however, I was disappointed by just about everything — the writing, the development, and the general plot.
Jackie: Initial impressions were quite good. After the first few pages I was wondering what I had against science fiction. The character of Gaal was great. I loved his reactions on arriving at the planet of Trantor, everything was so new and exciting to him. I was willing to forgive all the irritating references to three-dimensional newscasts and plasto-textiles, as his awe and emotions shined through.

What did you like the most about Foundation?
Rebecca: I really liked the premise of Foundation. It is that in a far future era, psychohistorians are able to mathematically predict the future. When they predict the downfall of the empire, they determine to shorten the length of barbarian ignorance by preparing the scenario to their advantage. This concept had potential, and as I read, I sought for themes, as I did when I read Dune and subsequently reviewed it. Foundation encourages us to avoid being too comfortable with the status quo, to be careful to always be learning, to use your strengths to your advantage. These are universal themes to some extent.
Jackie: The picture on the cover of my book was beautiful!

Was there anything that particularly irritated you in the book?
Rebecca: It seemed to me that Asimov’s brilliant ideas fell far short of their potential. Asmiov wrote Foundation at age 21, apparently, and it feels amateur. The novel was divided into five sections of between 45 and 120 pages, and each section covered a separate setting in the midst of a 300-year history. Thus, just as I finally was understanding each personality and setting, it would shift to an entire new setting. I never felt completely comfortable with the characters and setting because I never had time to.
But even if Asmiov had developed each setting further, I doubt they would have felt familiar by the end because Asmiov’s writing was superficial: there was absolutely no development of anyone or thing. Things happened. People spoke. That was it. In the court room scene in section 1, the inquisition is told in a Q and A format. This was horrible to read in that it was boring and weak. While the rest of the book never resorted to that format, it felt the same.
Jackie: Half of Part II, and Parts III, IV and V!! (for those of you who don’t know Foundation is divided into five separate short stories – parts I – V). I loved the first story (Part I) but after that the book went downhill very quickly for me. I’m not very interested in the politics of my own country, so the arguing of Galactic Councils, which don’t even exist, seemed really pointless to me. I was interested in the book, while it concentrated on individuals, but once it started waffling about alternative power sources, regulations and trade agreements l lost interest.

Who was your favourite character and why?
Rebecca: I don’t have a favourite character because I felt Asimov never developed any character to any extent. They were all superficial and boring. If there is any section I wanted to know more about, it was the first one. The concept of psychohistorians (mathematicians predicting the future based on human character) was intriguing.
Jackie: Gaal was my favourite character by a long way, as he is the only one we really saw a human side too.

Will you be reading the rest of the trilogy?
Rebecca: No. I can’t imagine it being prolonged into two more books!
Jackie: No, I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy, or any more books written by Asimov. There are so many amazing books out there, that I don’t see the point of reading ones which I probably won’t like.

The Dewey Mini-Challenge was to “try something new,” and science fiction was out of your comfort zone. What is your “after” impression of the genre? Will you be reading more in the future?
Rebecca: In addition to Dune and Space Odyssey 2001 as I mentioned above, I’ve also read Ender’s Game. Of those four science fiction books, Foundation was my least favourite. I liked the others much better, so I can’t swear off science fiction forever. That said, I may try Asimov again in the future to give him the benefit of the doubt, but not any time soon!
Jackie: I had a strong suspicion that I wouldn’t enjoy Asimov, and this was proved to be correct. In the past I have read a few science fiction/fantasy books, for example some by David Gemmel and The Fellowship of the Ring, but I haven’t enjoyed them. It obviously depends on your definition of science fiction, as it could be argued that The Time Traveller’s Wife also falls into this category, and I loved that. I much prefer books which are based in fact – only a really talented writer can make me enjoy books which are pure fantasy – Murakami is a good example of this. I need to be able to empathize with the characters, and this is much harder for me to do if they are living in a world in which all our laws of physics and society are different to theirs.

I’d like to thank Rebecca for participating in the challenge with me. I hope we can read a more enjoyable book together one day!

Chunkster Classics Recommended books

The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

2003 Paperback

The Moonstone was first published in 1868, and is considered to be the first detective novel ever written. Many people site The Moonstone as the longest piece of detective fiction in existence. I’m not an expert on this, but I do know that it took me a long time to read it! At 464 pages it only just classes as a chunkster, but I feel no guilt in counting it towards the Chunkster Challenge as the type was tiny!

The story takes place in an English country house, in which a rare diamond is stolen over night. The suspects are therefore limited, and a famous London detective is called in to investigate the crime.

The writing was easy to follow, but it was very dense, and so it was a slow read. For the majority of the book this wasn’t a bad thing, as I loved the descriptions, but there was a slow section in the middle, which I found hard to get through. It picked up towards the end though, and the it was very well plotted. I didn’t see any of the twists coming, and I liked the realism of it. There were also a lot of other issues raised during the book. SPOILER! Highlight text to read. I loved the beginning and ending in India, and the way Wilkie Collins challenged racial stereotypes by portraying the Indians as mysterious thieves, when they were the good ones all along.

I also found the opium factor interesting. I had no idea of it’s affects, and have since learnt that Wilkie Collins was writing from experience, as he had an opium habit.

I loved reading it so soon after The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher as I noticed all the similarities between the real murder at Road Hill and the theft of the moonstone. If you’ve read The Moonstone then it is worth having a look at this analysis – I found it very insightful. It contains lots of spoilers, so don’t click through if you’re interested in reading the book soon.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Moonstone. It was hard work at times, but well worth the effort. As it’s the first ever detective novel I can’t not recommend it, everyone should read it at some point!


Wuthering Heights – Discussion on chapters 16 – 34


For discussion of the first 15 chapters see here.

1. What is your opinion of Linton? Do you feel any sympathy towards him?

He just come across as pathetic! Weak, moany and irritating. I suppose I can give a tiny bit of sympathy to him, as I don’t wish physical or mental abuse on anyone. I’m glad that nothing good happened to him in the end, as he did nothing to earn it. I’m not sure I wished death on him, but it didn’t really bother me when he did die!

2. Why is Cathy so vulnerable to Linton’s appeal for pity, when she is otherwise strong-willed and independent?

I never thought of Cathy as particularly strong willed or independent. If she was so independent, why did she do just about everything she was told, and stay in the Grange? An independent person would have left home, and made a nice life for her self elsewhere.

I don’t think Linton had any appeal for her, he just happened to be the only person around at the time. 

3. Do you think that Nelly ever recognizes the part she has played in everything that has happened?

I don’t think she has a clue! I think that she isn’t the brightest of sparks, and would probably deny everything, even if confronted with the evidence!

4. Why do you think Heathcliff finally lets go of his animosity and his obsession with revenge at the end of the story? Do you feel any sympathy for him?

I think he just gives up. He realises that it hasn’t been worth it, and nothing he has fought for has made him happy. So he wishes himself dead, so he can return to Catherine – as Sandy points out, they all wish themselves dead – weird!! It would be much more realistic if they committed suicide.

5. What was your last emotion in finishing the last page of the book?

Relief! I was just so happy to have made it to the end of the book. Sandy is right, I do have to give some credit to Emily Bronte for being able to create a book in which I actively dislike just about every character – I don’t think I have ever read a book where there isn’t at least one tiny ray of light somewhere!

I was intrigued to read James’s comment on Sandy’s post that Heathcliffe may be Catherine’s half-brother. That makes a lot of sense, and if I’d only known that to be true from the beginning, then I may have had a lot more sympathy for everyone. It would have put a whole new twist on lots of things. Unfortunately I’m not clever enough to work these things out for myself, so need the author to point me in the right direction.

I don’t think I’ll ever read this book again, but I may have a quick glance through a study guide, to see if I’ve missed any other major revelations! I’m really glad that I read it with a couple of other people though, as I’d probably have been tempted to give it up if I’d been on my own.

If I’d been reading this by myself, then it would probably have got 1 or 2 stars out of 5, but as I’ve gained a little more insight, I think I can stretch to:


Wuthering Heights – Discussion on the first 15 chapters

Sandy at You’ve Gotta Read This! is hosting a group read of Wuthering Heights. Apart from the few I read at school, I have read only a couple of classics. I am trying to change this, and put classics, as one of my titles in the 999 challenge this year. I jumped at the chance to have a few people to encourage me through the book, and hopefully make the reading of it more enjoyable.

The idea was to read the first half of the book this week, and hopefully finish it by next Friday. We’ll all stop to compare notes halfway through.

I have to admit that I’m not really enjoying the book so far though. The characters are all miserable, the writing style is slow and difficult to follow in places and there isn’t any action, or emotional depth – not much to like really!! I hope everyone else is enjoying it more than me!

1. What was your first impression of the inhabitants of Thrushcross Grange, as described by Mr. Lockwood?

First impressions were actually quite good. It took a few pages to get used to the writing style. I quickly realised that this book required my full concentration, so I found myself a quiet corner and dedicated several hours for each reading sitting. I found the initial setting very atmospheric, and I enjoyed the character introductions. They all came across as interesting characters, with lots of nice flaws to make for a good book!

2. Do you think the ghost of Catherine was real or a product of Mr. Lockwood’s imagination?

I think the ghost must have been real. I can’t see any reason why Mr Lockwood would be prone to hallucinations. I also think ghosts make any story more interesting!

3. Can we rely on Nelly’s account of events?

I don’t see why not. As a servant in the household she knew all that was going on there, and it this point in the story I see no reason why she would want to mislead Mr Lockwood.

4. Do you think Catherine really knows the true meaning of love?

Not at all! Her only thoughts seem to be of the wealth a husband could give her.

5. Which character so far do you like the least? The most? Why?

The character I like the least is Catherine. She just comes across as a spoilt, ungrateful person, whose only interest in people is how much money they possess!

The character I like most at the moment is Mr. Lockwood, not because he has done anything to endear me to him, but because he hasn’t managed to do anything especially irritating yet!

6. If you had to come up with one word that represented Heathcliff, what would it be?

Outsider. It seems that he just spends his whole life trying to be accepted by the family. He just wants to belong, but as he must compete for affection with everyone else in the household I think he feels a bit left out.

For discussion on chapters 16 – 34 see here.