Book Review – Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Margaret the First is a short novel, a novella even, but it feels like a story that goes on forever in the most wonderful way. In this novella, Margaret Cavendish tells us about the early years of her life to when she wrote her poems and philosophical treatises. In the second half of the book, Dutton gives us her own retelling of Margaret’s life. Margaret is portrayed as an ambitious, yet insecure woman – aren’t we all? I relate to Margaret as someone who wants to do and say everything, and yet realizes the obstacles not only in society, but those that are within the self.

What surprised me about Dutton’s telling was that Lord Cavendish, Margaret’s husband, was actually very supportive of her. I very much hope that this was the case in real life. What also surprised me was how disliked she seemed to be by the British public – all of my limited learning of Margaret made her out to be a smart and likable person, though perhaps that was wishful thinking on my part.

Dutton writes such human emotions and thoughts into Margaret’s character, it makes me want to meet her. Since I cannot do that, I am eager to read Margaret’s own works. Dutton’s imagery tells an amazing story that I never wanted to end, and I will have to check out her other works as well.

My only critical comment is this: half the book is told in the first person perspective of Margaret, the second half in third person. This in itself is not a bad thing, only that the transition from one to the other is a bit jarring, and I would have liked a bit of a segue.

I recommend this book to those who love cool women of history, and who want a very human story.



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Book Review – The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This novella is a deep, fantastical read, full of myth and history, which I believe is based on Chinese history and myth. It is also about stories and storytelling; memory; female companionship in all senses of the term; the role women play. The last one is really what makes this novella. The women in this book define their own roles, from the Empress herself, to Rabbit, the Empress’ confidant and teller of her story. In the end it is Rabbit’s listener, Cleric Chih, who will go on to remember and retell the stories.

The book starts off slow, and a bit confusing. The history is the core of the story, though we as readers, as well as Chih, do not understand this until well into the story. That is okay though, as it gives the reader the sense that we are indeed listening to a complicated past unfold itself, and that we are now the storytellers. It reminds us that all is stories, and we must continue such a tradition.

I recommend The Empress of Salt and Fortune to those who love historical high fantasy, similar to books like The Black Tides of Heaven and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth.



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Book Review – Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I tend to very much love Stephen King’s shorter works, and Gwendy’s Button Box is no exception. Set in King’s favorite setting of Castle Rock, Maine, this is a story about Gwendy, a young girl who is given a box covered in buttons by a man in a black coat and black bowler hat. The box improves her life drastically, but, as she learns soon after receiving it, the box comes with a price.

What I love about this story is that it is about making mistakes in youth, and making choices as an adult. Through our mistakes and choices, we all find out what is important in life; what we love and what we want to avoid; what we know is best for ourselves. Through Gwendy, King and co-author Richard Chizmar show how such mistakes and choices can affect life, albeit with help from a box bent on destruction. It is definitely a coming-of-age story; a horrific one.

The only thing I would criticize would be the illustrations by Keith Minnion included in this edition. There were not enough of them, and, to be honest, I wasn’t too fond of them. If there had been more I might have appreciated them more.

While this book didn’t scare me, I can tell you right now that if a man in a black coat and black bowler hat came up to me offering a box covered in colorful buttons, I would refuse to take it.



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Book Review – Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

Cycle of the Werewolf

Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This short novel of Stephen King’s was a fun and chilling read. Very easy to get through due to the pacing of the story and entertainment factor, I read Cycle of the Werewolf in about two hours. The story shows a view of how a town might react to the arrival of a murderous werewolf and, in my personal opinion, King got most of it pretty realistic. There are two big reactions to a kind of upset like a werewolf: everyone going completely ballistic, or, as in this novel, everyone doing absolutely nothing until a child takes matters into their own hands.

The illustrations by Bernie Wrightson perfectly captured the grim atmosphere of King’s narration, though I have one criticism (this would mainly be for the editors): a lot of the illustrations were placed a bit too early in the text, and so the reader would know what would happen in the plot based on the picture before the written event ever actually happened.

I recommend this book to those who want a short and chilling read. The gloominess of the art and the fact that the book starts and ends with snow makes it a perfect winter read.



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Book Review-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” for the first day of the 2019 Reading Rush, for the book to movie adaptation challenge. The short story is very different from the 2008 film, taking place from the late 19th century to the early 20th. The only thing that is the same is the fact that Benjamin Button ages backwards.

Because this book was written in 1922 and takes place first just before the American Civil War, there were some things I as a modern reader had to get used to, like the sort-of-subtle racism and antisemitism that were the norms at the time.

However, psychologically and socially this book was very interesting. First because the anti-aging of Benjamin Button was clearly inspired by the genetic disorder progeria, basically by which a person is born already aging, and these people generally do not live long. With Benjamin Button, though, his disorder or whatever it is also affects his personality, giving the reader a different perspective on the idea of growing up and coming of age.

One of the big social aspects in this story corresponds with how people even today treat mental illness, chronic illness, and simply illness in general. Most of those close to Benjamin Button blamed him for his disorder of aging backwards, claiming he was being stubborn in not stopping it, and having no consideration for anyone else in relation to it. Sound familiar? I wish I could say things have changed, but this is a very good representation of how people react to such things.

I thought this story gave an interesting social commentary on life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is worth a read even now. It’s no Great Gatsby, but “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” has a depth all its own.



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