Halloween Book Review: Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie is a Hercule Poirot murder mystery in which Poirot is called to investigate the murder of a young girl at a Halloween party – she is found drowned in the apple-bobbing bucket.

This is not the first Agatha Christie novel to be mentioned on my blog, as I often enjoy her work – particularly her Hercule Poirot stories.

Yet, with Hallowe’en Party, I found myself disappointed.

Firstly, it wasn’t particularly scary. In fairness, I hadn’t expected it to be – it’s not a Gothic horror novel, after all. However, I had hoped for some more gory details, or even a slightly more Gothic atmosphere – thunder and lightning crackling outside as Poirot turns up to investigate a child murder in a dark and sinister country house. Perhaps that’s slightly too cliché but, given the book is set at Halloween, it might have been fun for Christie to include those tropes. Instead, she depicts Halloween in a rather quaint and, dare I say it, dull way. Even the fact a child has been murdered is glossed over somewhat.

Secondly, there weren’t any characters I strongly liked or disliked – mainly because because there weren’t any memorable, distinctive, or developed characters. Even Poirot didn’t really seem like Poirot. Each character felt incredibly two-dimensional, which was disappointing. As a consequence, I didn’t find the murder mystery engrossing, gripping, engaging, or indeed any other synonyms you can think of. This was quite a significant issue for me because isn’t the whole point of a Poirot story to solve the mystery in an interesting and engaging way? Throughout the book, as Poirot uncovers clues, interviews suspects and, even at the end of the book, when he reveals all, I didn’t feel satisfied in the slightest. I didn’t feel like I’d learnt anything about the characters, and I didn’t feel surprised or shocked. More than that, though, I didn’t even care.

Overall, Hallowe’en Party is a much weaker novel of Christie’s than any I’ve ever read, and I have no idea why this is the case. I would not recommend.

However, if you are interested in reading some entertaining and fascinating murder mysteries (that is, if my review here hasn’t put you off Agatha Christie’s work entirely!), you can read some more of my Agatha Christie reviews and blog posts here:

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars 

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Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020

Book Review: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne is a quirky French adventure novel – although I read an English translation – from the 19th century. It’s about an eccentric old man, Phileas Fogg, who attempts to travel across the world in 80 days in order to win a £20,000 bet.

Mostly, I enjoyed Around the World in Eighty Days. It feels like quite a long time since I’ve reviewed a classic novel on my blog.

Phileas Fogg is very eccentric; he reminded me of Sherlock Holmes, though with less drugtaking. However, I thought Fogg was a less likeable character than Sherlock Holmes because, whilst he behaved like the perfect Victorian gentleman, he came across as quite aloof, self-absorbed and less personable.

The narrative voice was quirky and sarcastic, which I particularly enjoyed. The plot is quite fun too, mostly because Fogg’s valet Passepartout finds himself in all kinds of difficult and amusing situations.

However, for a travel narrative, it’s ironic that Fogg isn’t the slightest bit interested in his surroundings. I was expecting some  exquisite descriptions of beautiful and exotic landscapes, but that was hardly the focus of the novel.

Instead, the focus was on money – how much Fogg bets, spends, and loses as he travels the globe. Personally, I found it quite uncomfortable that Fogg just threw money at every situation he found himself in.

Around the World in Eighty Days is also obviously a novel of its period.

For example, it focuses on the grandeur and excitement of a white British man travelling to parts of the world colonised by Britain, and using money to get what he wants. Furthermore, there are quite a few problematic racial stereotypes, and the new cultures that Fogg and his companions experience are often described as odd and unusual, in comparison to British culture.

Also, Mrs Aouda is weakly characterised – she may as well not be there. I can only recall her being rescued, crying or falling in love because I suppose that’s what Victorian women do?

I still enjoyed Around the World in Eighty Days a great deal and I think it’s a fun novel. However, there are also some interesting points of contention to be made about it.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Secret Water by Arthur Ransome

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Secret Water is the eighth novel in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. There are 12 books in the series in total.

Secret Water focuses on just the Walker children, as they are “marooned” in Hamford Water, which is an area of tidal salt marshes and low-lying islands. It is the first book where Bridget – formally known as Fat Vicky, the baby in Swallows and Amazons, is old enough to join in on the adventures.

I think Bridget is my new favourite character; everything she said put a smile on my face, and the interactions between her and Roger are so sweet and funny.

Ransome’s light-hearted narration, paired with the humour of Bridget and Roger is just fantastic. As he is no longer the youngest, Roger tries to model more grownup behaviour for Bridget (and fails). Bridget is teased for her babylike innocence, because she is so new to the Walkers’ games. For example, she is so excitable and keen to be a human sacrifice for the children’s game – even though she has no idea what a sacrifice is!

Secret Water is a new kind of adventure for the Walker children as they are left “marooned” on an island and they are forbidden to sail anywhere by their parents. This is an understandable decision, after the chaos that arose when the children were last left unsupervised in a sailing boat in We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea. I liked this, as it meant the book was  more focused on exploring territory and describing the surrounding scenery, unlike some of the other books, which contain a lot more technical language about sailing that I just don’t understand.

As well as the new setting, another new addition to Secret Water are the new children the Walkers meet and make friends with: Don, Daisy, Dum and Dee. I wasn’t particularly bothered about these new characters, as I think the eight book in a series is quite late to be introducing new characters, and I didn’t think there was anything particularly interesting or exciting about them.

Nonetheless, I still greatly enjoyed Secret Water and it’s definitely one of my favourites in the series.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Theatre Review [Sort Of]: The Seagull by Florence Bell

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview. This is a student theatre view. All opinions are my own.

The Seagull is a play written by the Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov.

The Seagull is also an adaptation of Chekhov’s play by Florence Bell.

The Seagull is currently in performance at the Nottingham New Theatre, located on the University of Nottingham main campus, from Wednesday 27th March – Saturday 30th March. The Nottingham New Theatre is the only entirely student run theatre in the country.

My Photo [The Seagull].jpg

The Seagull explores conflicting relationships between four characters:

  • Boris, a writer
  • Irine, an actress
  • Nina, an actress
  • Stanley, a playwright

Florence has adapted Chekhov’s original by reinterpreting and repeating the final act of the play four times, in order to highlight four different character perspectives. This is a clear diversion from Chekhov’s original four act structure. Indeed, The Seagull calls attention throughout to its structural and stylistic differences from Chekhov, commenting on old literary traditions, and the act of adaptation and new writing.

“Is this meant to be an adaptation?”

“I don’t know what it is but it doesn’t feel much like the original.”

“And I don’t like that.”

I thought this was an interesting idea; adaptation is a subject I am interested in myself, as it raises a number of questions such as:

  • What are adaptations “allowed” to change?
  • What are adaptations “not allowed” to change?
  • What is an adaptation expected to include or exclude?

At various points, The Seagull pauses to explain, rewind, or critique the characters onstage. Very metatheatrical. Personally, I found this confusing. I don’t know a great deal about the theatre or Chekhov however, so this could easily be my ignorance showing.

Whilst I may not have understood everything, I still enjoyed the play – and laughed! I was surprised at how funny this adaptation of The Seagull was. I didn’t necessarily laugh at everything, but, given what I knew about Chekhov’s play beforehand (a story about sad writers), I was impressed by the amount of well-delivered, natural-sounding humour contained within a story largely focused on suffering.

My favourite part of the play was Stanley’s direct address to the audience, criticising criticism. He argued in support of new writing, and challenged the critics who seemingly live to drag other people’s work down.  (what does this mean for me, as a “critic”?) I thought this speech was powerful, and an excellent piece of Florence’s writing.

“I know that one day, I could make something really good, a great work of art. And a lot of people are never going to do that. So I’m worth something.”

The Seagull will be performed at Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 30th March.

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

– Judith


This post was last updated in 2020.

Themes in: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview. Instead of a book review, this will be thematic book discussion.

Brave New World is a novel by Aldous Huxley, published in 1932. I already wrote a book review of Brave New World, which you can click here to read. This blog post will not be an inherent discussion of themes in Brave New World, but a discussion of genres instead.

Science Fiction?

Like The Time Machine, Brave New World can be considered science fiction because it is a novel about a futuristic world with extraordinary technological advancements. For example, the society in Brave New World learn through hypnopaedia, a method that teaches a wide range of information during sleep, and laboratories are used to engineer future generations with perfect precision. This emphasis on efficient technology was inspired by Henry Ford’s car factories, as Ford highly valued precise engineering and efficient production. The notion of technological, genetic engineering instead of biological reproduction was also inspired by discussions at the time surrounding eugenics and the possibility of a perfected human race.

Utopian?

Speaking of perfection, Brave New World is an arguably Utopian novel because, as in The Time Machine, there is a strong emphasis on leisure and entertainment, which is most notable in the hedonistic culture encouraged throughout the novel. For example, citizens attend the ‘Feelies’ instead of the cinema which show highly sexualised films with lifelike details and ‘amazing tactual effects’ the viewers can experience themselves (Chapter 3, p. 29). Sexual encounters are encouraged to happy as regularly as possible, with anyone and everyone, to increase happiness. This is demonstrated with the slogan ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’. Furthermore, citizens are encouraged to regularly use the Soma, a drug which increases happiness and decreases worries, anxieties, or dissatisfactions, should they occur. Thus, society is too drugged on hedonistic pleasures to ever consider an uprising against the government. As previously mentioned, children are engineered to save time and the physical effort and expenditure of pregnancy and childbirth. Children are “born” into a rigid class system, determined by their DNA, which determines their quality of life, social status, and employment for the rest of their life. As children, their playtimes are monitored and controlled and as adults, their working hours are meticulously regulated.  In theory then, Brave New World presents an efficient, perfect, Utopian society that is socially, economically and politically successful.

Dystopian?

However, Brave New World can equally be described as Dystopian. Although the government has made many technological advancements and is trying to make society the best it can be, this has negative consequences.  The government regulate and control every aspect of citizens’ lives from their birth to their death; they are “born” from a test tube and after death, their bodies are cremated for ‘phosphorus recovery’, harvesting ‘a kilo and a half per adult corpse’ (Chapter 5, p. 63). The government provide regular Soma and birth-control, to encourage and enforce drug use and promiscuous sex. The government introduced hyphopodia to indoctrinate children to conform to the ideologies of the state. It is evident there is an overwhelming lack of free will and true happiness because society is brainwashed, oppressed, and trapped under totalitarian control, in the government’s pursuit of efficiency and perfection.

Ultimately, the decision as to whether Brave New World is truly Utopian or truly Dystopian is left for the reader to decide. I know I wouldn’t like to live there though.


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Themes in: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview. Instead of a book review, this will be thematic book discussion.

The Time Machine is a novella by H.G. Wells, published in 1895. I already wrote a book review of The Time Machine, which you can click here to read.

Science Fiction?

The Time Machine most clearly belongs to the science fiction genre, as it contains many conventions associated with the science fiction genre, such as time travel, technology, and the future – the most obvious example being the fact the Time Traveller travels in time to the year A.D. 802,701. He does so with a remarkably advanced piece of technology – particularly for Victorian England – called a time machine, which is ‘delicately made’ from a ‘crystallin substance’ (Chapter 1, page 6). Ironically however, upon the Time Traveller’s arrival into the future, he notes that there is ‘no machinery’ and ‘no appliances of any kind’ (Chapter 5, p. 43) technological advancements have been lost and society has regressed into a simpler, primitive way of life. The Time Traveller also finds the future sublime and inexplicable, which is another convention of the science-fiction genre. This is demonstrated with the numerous rhetorical questions the Time Traveller asks such as ‘Why?’ and ‘How shall I put it?’ (Chapter 5, p. 43), as he struggles to comprehend the new world around him. Furthermore, towards the end of The Time Machine, The Time Traveller travels further into the future to see the apocalyptic end of the world – another convention that can be considered part of science fiction narratives – and watches as the world is consumed by an ‘inky black’ darkness,  a ‘glowing scarlet’ sky and is left utterly lifeless and cold (Chapter 11, p. 88).

Utopian?

The Time Machine can also be considered a Utopian novel. The Utopian genre often focuses on a society which has been perfected, and can enjoy peace and happiness. Indeed, these genre conventions are reflected in The Time Machine. The Eloi, the people of A.D. 802,701 focus their lives on fun, food, and a life of leisure. In this futuristic world, there are many beautiful flowers and gardens, which contrasts against the heavily industrialised setting of Victorian London the Time Traveller has departed from. Furthermore, The Time Traveller observes that the Eloi spend all their time ‘playing’, ‘bathing’, ‘eating’ and ‘sleeping’ (Chapter 5, p. 43). Undoubtedly, many would find this prospect incredibly desirable and relaxing.

Dystopian?

However, these same aspects of The Time Machine can be considered Dystopian, which is the exact opposite of the Utopian genre. Dystopian literature focuses on a world considerably worse than the author’s own, and life is usually oppressive or unfulfilling – or both. The Time Traveller arrives in A.D. 802,701 expecting to find a far more advanced human race than his own, a notion influenced by Darwinian theory of continual evolutionary progression. This is not the case. Instead, humanity has degenerated and split into 2 distinct species, both of which are worse than the Victorian society The Time Traveller left behind. The Eloi may have a seemingly fun and easy life, but they have lost their mental stimulation, physical strength, creativity, knowledge, and intelligence. They lack the motivation for … anything.  The Morlocks have also regressed and are akin to cavemen, as they hide underground and hunt the Eloi at night for meat. This presents the idea of evolutionary regression and is the direct opposite of a perfected, Utopian society.

To sum up, as I hope I’ve demonstrated, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells draws on conventions from the science fiction, Utopian and Dystopian genres.


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Phantom of the Opera, a story perhaps best known through the stage adaptation, was originally a Gothic horror novel by Gaston Leroux. ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is the name given to a man living secretly below the Paris Opera House. One is not entirely sure if he is man or ghost – or something much worse. He becomes captivated by the sound of Christine Daaé’s beautiful singing, develops an obsessive love for her, and kidnaps her, leading to a series of horrific events.

I liked reading this book; it was genuinely thrilling and had some truly scary moments, which I hadn’t anticipated because of how tame the kidnapping plot in the 2004 film adaptation is. There is palpable danger and tension throughout, due to the Phantom’s cruel and malignant hold over the Opera House.

My favourite character is – and probably always will be – Raoul, simply because I liked him in the film adaptation.

In the novel however, what I enjoyed was the development of his and Christine’s romance from childhood sweethearts to adults in love. I shared in his frustration and upset that Christine was already ‘pledged’ away to the ‘Phantom’ and there was not much he could do to rescue her from this. Raoul’s helplessness as the heroic figure was especially emphasised in the torture scenes, where he and Christine are separated and suffering separately in different ways. This was a nice subversion of the “damsel in distress” convention.

Whilst on the subject of torture, I liked how Leroux unashamedly introduced taboo subjects such as death, torture, violence, and suicide because this added to the Gothic and horrific tone of the book.

Yet for me, where The Phantom of the Opera fell slightly in my esteem was its use of both a prologue and an epilogue.

I didn’t read the prologue, so as to leave the plot as mysterious as possible for myself (which worked well!). On skim-reading it in preparation for this review however, my issue with the prologue is the same as the epilogue; it ties up questions about the ‘Phantom’ instantly – who he really is, what he really is, and where he came from.

I much preferred seeing the ‘Phantom’ as a liminal figure who could be both man or ghost – once his presence is rationalised and his true self revealed, I felt this removed some of the horror*.

* It’s rather like seeing a magic trick performed behind the scenes, then watching the same trick being performed; something has been lost.

Furthermore, because of the prologue and epilogue, the book is written as if a true account by Leroux and thus there are a few passages of letter-reading and the inclusion of administrative documents, which is not the most dynamic way of introducing new information.

All in all, I much enjoyed reading The Phantom of the Opera, and it was nice to finally read the story on which many musicals and films have been based.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.