The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 3rd October 2006Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Simon Schuster
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classic
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

One dollar and eight-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure — her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift.

I had two roundabout introductions to this story: the first was in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, the second was the Simpsons episode entitled Grift of the Magi. It wasn’t until I actually read the book though did I realise that is was Sesame Street was referencing with their adorable Bert and Ernie side story, and while I knew the name, I never knew what it was about.

This is an incredibly quick read, it is a short story but one that has a lot of impact. Henry draws you into the era with the language and the descriptions. You also see the love and devotion that Della and her husband have for one another and it is a testament to the writing that such a short story had impacted on the cultural psyche.

There’s the beautiful Christmas spirit and the love of a young married couple to entice you as you read. It’s an incredibly sweet story and in a way Della gets a raw deal, but that is taking away a bit of the magic. It is simple but heartfelt and there is a wonderful Christmas feel to the book.

Long Lost Review: After the First Death by Robert Cormier

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 3 December 1998Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

On the outskirts of a small American town, a bus-load of young children is being held hostage. The hijackers are a cold and ruthless group, opposed to the secret government agency Inner Delta.

At the centre of the battle are three teenagers. Miro is the terrorist with no past and no emotions. Kate is the bus driver, caught up in the nightmare, and Ben is the General’s son who must act as a go-between. 

Death may be the only escape.

I found this book in our school library when I was 13 or 14 years old so it would have been 2002 or 2003. I was amazed that this kind of thing could be written in a book. I loved the characters and their story and how they got there. Cormier brought them to life so easily, you understood who they were with only a few words.

I also loved how Cormier didn’t shy away from anything but at the same wrote without being too detailed about what was going on. It was a perfect balance of a sensitive topic alongside very restrained graphic content. I don’t know whether my views have changed after all these years, I may have to reread it and see if it was as simple as all that but it would be a welcome read.

I remember recommending this book to everyone at the time and it was something that stuck with me for years afterwards. There are key scenes which have never left me and it is an amazing story about courage and fear and things you can’t change no matter what. There were no apologies of what was being written and it was realistic but also suitably held back for the intended audience.

What was interesting too was the points of view offered. Not often do we see the inner workings of those who terrorise and have control in these nasty situations, even more so to get their backstories of how and why they do the horrible things they do, but Cormier does, and he does it well. You don’t get sympathetic exactly but it does open your mind. You also get the perspective of those in those situations, as well as those seemingly powerless on the outside. It was a fascinating triangle of seeing the same event from different viewpoints.

It is not for everyone, as I said very touchy topic matter and it isn’t the most innocent story around the children involved, but it still a fantastic read and one that stays with you.

Long Lost Review: Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 22nd March 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Century
Pages: 387
Format: Paperback
Genre: Thriller
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

You think you know the truth. The truth is you know nothing.

If your husband was murdered,
And you were a witness,
How do you explain, seeing him on your nanny cam?
You thought you trusted him.
Now you can’t even trust yourself.

A very fractured Long Lost Review this month. I went through my review drafts and found this one, half a thought in barely two paragraphs so I’m trying to work with what I remember because I know I really loved it at the time.

I had never read a Coben book before but I knew how popular he is. This book came across my desk at work in 2017 and after reading the blurb I borrowed it right away. I’ve always loved stories about people faking their own deaths, I know that sounds odd, but it intrigues me. This had intrigue and a whole lot more. For a while this became my go to book to recommend for people if they wanted a captivating and engaging story with a lot of surprises.

The only character I remember is Maya; ex-military who is haunted by decisions she made that got her discharged. I don’t remember anyone else but I loved how we become doubtful ourselves as Maya starts to doubt what she sees and hears. It’s told in third person I think so we don’t get her inner thoughts but I remember that not being important as I could still become invested in her and her circumstance.

It’s a complicated case where you are unsure who to trust, what to believe, and when you think you know what is happening Colburn shakes things up again spectacularly. There’s a lot of twists and surprises but it only added to the experience, you never knew where it was going but when the reveal happened it was a well earned result. I know when I finished this I was planning on reading more of his to see if they gave me the same reaction, but I have yet to do so but maybe it’s time to revisit that since I remember liking this one so much. Maybe I need a reread of this first?

Long Lost Review: Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology edited by Danielle Binks

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 24th April 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/ Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

With Anthology August underway I was fortunate to even have an anthology in my “read but not reviewed” pile. Begin, End, Begin is a fantastic example of Australia’s talent and YA capabilities. I loved all of these stories which is so rare with anthologies and I found some great new authors that I may never have discovered.

With a theme “Begin, End, Begin” there are so many ways it can be interpreted and I was astounded by the creativity of these authors. I think I loved almost every single one of these stories which is so rare with an anthology but with this calibre of talent who can really be surprised. I knew of, but had not read, a lot of these authors when this was first released and it was a great chance to see their writing style in small snippets, with a fabulous and engaging story. I still think about a lot of these stories two years later and is a testament to the quality and imagination of these writers. I’ve definitely read a lot more of their works since and it was a real benefit getting a chance to see their styles and fall in love with them first.

Some of my favourites would have to be ‘One Small Step’ by Amie Kaufman and ‘I Can See the Ending’ by Will Kostakis; both are amazing and certainly ones I have thought about often since. They aren’t the only great ones as there are some beautiful stories in here filled with heart and imagination.

There’s only ten contributors so there is a chance at a longer story from them all, but even so with a few short pages you are brought into these worlds or science fiction, contemporary, romance and diversity. If you are new to the #LoveOzYA phenomenon this is a fantastic way to get introduced to some great authors and see their talent in small, entertaining snippets.

Long Lost Review: Medea by Euripides

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 10th August 2006Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Pages: 116
Format: Paperback
Genre: Play
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

Euripides was one of the most popular and controversial of all the Greek tragedians, and his plays are marked by an independence of thought, ingenious dramatic devices, and a subtle variety of register and mood. Medea, is a story of betrayal and vengeance. It is an excellent example of the prominence and complexity that Euripides gave to female characters.

As I was looking for a review for this month I realised I had a few written that I never shared outside of Goodreads. I found this one from 2008 when I read Medea and thought it suited the LLR perfectly because it was an actual lost review.

Euripides tells the story of Medea who uses her anger and feeling of personal betrayal as a means to seek vengeance on the husband she thinks has wronged her. Reading this play was rather different. It was strange, amazing and a little bit horrible.

Medea connects to other ancient Greek Myths and this is one of the stories that follows Jason and the Argonauts. After Jason leaves Medea for another, Medea justifies her actions by blaming Jason for leaving after all she had done to help him in the past.

There are some pretty strong themes in this story, there are various forms of violence and Euripides does describe them well despite their nature. being a play a few things are left off stage and no seen but the meaning is clear and the results are obvious. You get to understand where Medea is coming from the way Euripides presents her. She has monologues and discussions with various people, but you can also see how irrational and ridiculous she is being as well.

As I say, it isn’t the most pleasant story, but it is interesting and amazing at what this woman does. The lengths she will go to and the destruction she intentionally causes with justifications for every step simply for revenge is astonishing.

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