Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm
Animal Farm by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m finally on winter break and reading a tonne – I think (fingers crossed) I’m over my reading slump! I have a load of reviews to catch up on and hopefully will be posting more regularly over the coming weeks.

Animal Farm is a novella by George Orwell which was written during World War Two (in 1943, to be exact). What at first appears to be the story of farm animals rebelling against their farmer and setting up their own farm, is underneath a political statement about communism and Stalinist Russia. Really, this book is an education – if only you can understand the metaphors and relate the actions of the characters in the book to what actually happened in Russian history.

I genuinely loved this book – it’s clever and educational as well as being relatively easy to read and understand. I did have to look up who each character is playing (e.g. Napoleon as Stalin, Snowball as Trotsky) and the significance of the events in the book (e.g. the Battle of the Windmill is an allegory to the Battle of Stalingrad).

Animal Farm is a quick read (it’ s just over 100 pages) that is an interesting observation of society and human nature, as well as a statement on Russia in the early 20th century.

Definitely worth a read, especially if you’re trying to read more classics!

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I want ALL of the boxsets!

My TBR list is genuinely a bit scary – it towers over my bed and I can’t decide which book to read next because they all look so great. And yet I want more – despite the fact I have not yet been offered a job for after I leave uni in TWO WEEKS AAHHHHHHHH and I currently own a complete total of ZERO bookshelves.

It’s all going to be fine. Except I might buy more books. Fine, I AM going to buy more books.

Leigh Bardugo!

These JUST got announced, and I haven’t read any of them, but I know I should. I’ve heard so many amazing recommendations for these books, and the covers are so pretty. The question is whether I should wait for the boxed set…


The *New* Cassandra Clare covers

I own (and read) all of Cassandra Clare’s novels, but I have about half of them on kindle, some in the original UK editions (with the scary faces – google if you don’t know what I mean!), and they’re a variety of sizes. I love these new covers and NEED them on my bookshelf (especially the new TID covers which I couldn’t find a pic of). I’m also considering getting the mangas of The Infernal Devices to read along with.


Puffin In Bloom

These covers, AM I RIGHT? I saw these on HailsLovesNYC’s YouTube channel (I’ve been loving her videos lately), and oh my god, I’m in love. They’re so beaut.


Jane Austen!

I really love these Penguin classic hardbacks, and I should probably read more classics. I haven’t read any Jane Austen, despite owning a huge hefty copy of all of her books in one book, which is completely impossible to read (very small print, very big book problems). I think this set would make me look very sophisticated and make me actually read some of her work (previous attempts seem to have failed).

That’s it from me on BOXSETS I am dying to buy, there are plenty more BOOKS I want to buy, but my hand hurts as I have been writing my thesis (a very painful procedure, let me tell you!)

Love and kisses,

Annalise xxx

Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Copy received from publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Stargirl is a book I initially heard (and intended to buy) years ago, but just never got round to reading. Originally published in 2000, Stargirl will be re-released (with a new, but similar cover) on 7 April 2016 in the UK. The cover (and covers in the past) is so intriguing, especially as there is no writing on the front (original and rule-breaking, like Stargirl herself).

Stargirl is told through the viewpoint of Leo, a student at Mica High. Stargirl (and yes, that is her name) bursts onto the scene, starting high school after years of being home-schooled. She’s fresh, wacky, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

She plays the ukelele at lunchtime and sings happy birthday to anyone and everyone.


She doesn’t wear make-up and wears outlandish outfits.


She carries around a rat called Cinnamon.


Stargirl brings a whole new energy to Mica High, entrancing the student body and joining the cheerleading team.

But soon, Stargirl’s inherent niceness (to anyone and everyone) causes her trouble. She’s nice to the wrong people, they say. The students start to shun high school, and, as Leo realises he loves her, Leo gets shunned too. That’s when Leo tries to make Stargirl ‘normal’.

Stargirl is a really great story – a classic Young Adult novel – about what it means to stay true to yourself, even when others say you should change and conform. It’s a story of first love, and the pressure on high school students to be who others say they should be. Stargirl is written in such an infectious way – it really does feel like you’re there, in Mica, with Leo and Stargirl.

I really liked how the story wrapped up at the end – many YA novels today are left on a cliffhanger or in an ambitious way, and Stargirl ended in a way that allowed closure – although this will be a story that stays with me for a while.

Stargirl has already worked her magic on many past readers – this re-release is sure to capture a few more hearts.

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Annalise x

2016 (No-Spend) Classics Challenge!


First things first, if you haven’t already, sign up to the 2016 Classics Challenge over at prettybooks – it’ll be loads of fun and definitely worth it!

The aim of the challenge is to read One Classic Per Month and then tweet/instagram/blog/vlog about it, answering these questions:

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
WHY I Chose to Read It
WHAT Makes It A Classic
WHAT I Thought of This Classic
WILL It Stay A Classic
WHO I’d Recommend It To

To make this challenge a little harder, I’m going to be only reading books 1. I already own, or 2. are available for free on Kindle. I’m also going to be prioritising books that have been loitering on my Goodreads TBR list for, oh, a few years or so.

Here are my choices (I think):

1Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (already owned)


Goodreads rating: 4.19

Publication Date: 1938

Goodreads Synopsis: “The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

2 – The Princess Bride by William Goldman (already owned)


Goodreads rating: 4.24

Publication Date: 1973

Goodreads Synopsis: “What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?
What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

3 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


Goodreads Rating: 4.23

Publication Date: 1813

Goodreads Synopsis: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

4 – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (already owned)


Goodreads Rating: 4.01

Publication Date: 1967

Goodreads Synopsis: One of the 20th century’s enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement of a Nobel Prize winning career.

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

5 – Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy


Goodreads Rating: 3.73

Publication Year: 1891

Goodreads Synopsis: When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her ‘cousin’ Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.

6 – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Goodreads Rating: 4.10

Publication Year: 1911

Goodreads Synopsis: What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty–unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.

7 – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


Goodreads Rating: 4.08

Publication Year: 1847

Goodreads Synopsis: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

8 – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


Goodreads Rating: 4.00

Publication Year: 1878

Goodreads Synopsis: Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky.

In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate, but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.

9 – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell


Goodreads Rating: 4.13

Publication Year: 1854

Goodreads Synopsis: When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

10 – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson


Goodreads Rating: 3.78

Publication Date: 1886

Goodreads Synopsis: In this harrowing tale of good and evil, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that unleashes his secret, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde.

11 – The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde


Goodreads Rating: 4.03

Publication Date: 1890

Goodreads Synopsis: Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”

12 – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott


Goodreads Rating: 4.o1

Publication Date: 1868

Goodreads Synopsis: Classic novel of 19th-century family life during and after the Civil War, in a household with four sisters. Alcott based the March family largely on her own real-life family.

So there are my choices for this 2016 Classics Challenge!

What books have you chosen? What do you think of my choices? Tweet me @AnnaliseBooks or comment below!

Happy New Year!

Annalise x


Review: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, so I read this because I wanted to watch the Amazon series, but also always want to read the source material first. I became so enamoured with the idea of the book, that I actually went to Waterstones Piccadilly after a job interview, with the sole intention of buying this book.

The book is set in an alternate universe where Germany and Japan won the Second World War. The United State of America has split into three sections – the Pacific States, controlled by Japan, the Reich Controlled Eastern States, and the neutral buffer zone of the Rocky Mountains in the middle. The Soviets have been obliterated, and a cold war is breaking out between the Germans and the Japanese.

I really like the world – this is a book which makes you think about the impact that wars have on society and real people, after the fighting and military action has supposedly come to an end. The world doesn’t end at the United States – what is going on all over the world (and on other worlds) is explored, and I enjoyed the politics of the novel.

The book is a mishmash of several characters – Frank Frink, a Jewish jewellery maker in the Japanese region of the US, his ex-wife, Juliana Frink, living in the buffer zone with an Italian fascist with a secret agenda. Nobusuke Tagomi, the ranking Trade Mission lead in Japanese San Francisco, who meets with Mr Baynes, a Swedish industrialist, in San Francisco. Robert Childan, owner of American Artistic Handicrafts, who sells Frank Frink’s jewellery to the Japanese.

So here’s the rub: the ideas are brilliant, but the characters are forgettable and the story just doesn’t click enough for me. The book follows these characters who don’t really do anything, and are strenuously connected. I expected the novel to end with them all meeting (in particular, Frank Frink and his ex-wife), but the character development just isn’t there for me. I didn’t become invested in these characters; I didn’t have to read on because I wanted to find out more.

There’s no meaningful ending to this novel, no real pay-off. The concept is there but the plot and characters aren’t – they are simply a means to showing off this world a little.

I’ll be really interested to see where the TV series takes this novel (I’ve heard it’s a little different) but this is a book that just didn’t have the wow factor I expected.
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