Beatrice Reviews “Poems to See By” by Julian Peters

“Poems to See By” by Julian Peters
★★★★☆

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This stunning anthology of favorite poems visually interpreted by comic artist Julian Peters breathes new life into some of the greatest English-language poets of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free on Netgalley, for an honest and unbiased review.

I haven’t reviewed a poetry anthology before but I’m glad this is my first one off the bat. A stunning visual portrayal of works of art by the infamous Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings and Maya Angelou (to name a few), “Poems to See By” is a beautiful experience for those artistic souls out there.

The poetry, in itself, is a vast and uplifting collection. Covering various themes and topics such as identity, hope, life and death and supplemented by various art forms ranging from ink-based to comics and manga, Peters pays tribute to these poets’ creations as well as creating his own original work, adding a new layer of depth to the poems.

Although I don’t have the technical artistic terms down, the lack of knowledge in the field of art didn’t take away from the experience. I’ve always felt that poetry, literature and any form of art (visual or not) is a highly personal affair. To see this artist bring these poems to life through a mix of monochrome panels, dominant color schemes and splashes of his artist’s muse showing through is a delight. The varied nature of the styles for each poem also goes to show Peters’ talent as an illustrator.

In a world where the people’s experience is highly shaped by visual media and senses, it surprises me that the idea of combining artwork with written forms of literature hasn’t been done before. I’m glad that this was my first experience of that sort. Peters delivers nothing short of artistic mastery and a newfound depth for poems that have shaped the world.

An original and wonderful way to experience poetry and introduce new generations to the work of classic poets and renowned names in the field, I urge any and everyone to grab their own copy of the book and allow themselves to feel the magic it provides.

Beatrice Reviews “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates

“Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates
★★★★★

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In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model American couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank’s job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is now about to crumble. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves. 


It’s a disease. Nobody thinks or feels or cares any more; nobody gets excited or believes in anything except their own comfortable little God damn mediocrity

What. A. Novel.

Revolutionary Road had been on my to-read list for the longest time but I had repeatedly put it off, hearing from friends and acquaintances that the subject matter was ‘dreary and depressing’. Not that I have anything against heart-wrenching novels but in my mind, the prospect of reading about a failing marriage for a couple who deluded themselves into chasing the grand illusion of the ‘American Dream’ could wait.

And if you’re putting it off too: stop. Wait no longer. Grab your copy of Richard Yates’ brilliant masterpiece and devour it. Afterward, watch the feature movie starring none other than the marvellous Leonardo DiCaprio and captivating Kate Winslet. That’s what I did and boy, was that an emotional ride.

You’re painfully alive in a drugged and dying culture.

April and Frank Wheeler are the textbook definition of that adventurous, explorative couple that blindly believe they are better than the rest of the world; a world confined to a dull existence that goes hand in hand with conformity in suburban America. Or at least, they try to be.

Yates’ does a fine job of examining the 1950s as a time driven by conformity in exchange for the promise of economic and social security. The writing is, no doubt, wonderful. I found myself turning the page as each line connected effortlessly to the next, painting vivid pictures in my head as if I, too, were in the same race for meaning and beauty out of life as the characters are.

However, that’s where the satirical elements come in. I couldn’t help but laugh and snort derisively through April and Frank’s (multiple) heated arguments. They say communication is key in a relationship and I couldn’t agree more but the two, as much as they talk (with Frank doing the majority of the talking) fail to grasp each other’s feelings. Communication is dead if there is no attempt made to truly understand and relate to what the other is going through or trying to express. And that’s where Frank and April fall short, amidst several other things.

The two entertain a shared illusion of superiority, characterised by their arrogance in running after the ‘American Dream’ while belittling those around them. However, they refuse to confront their own shortcomings and this is where the real tragedy lies – not in being trapped to a dull routine-based life but in their inability to face their own demons, instead choosing to find excuses for their dissatisfaction in other things.

Although I heavily disliked the characters themselves, I couldn’t help but amaze over the beautiful way in which they are etched out throughout the novel by Yates. Frank Wheeler, to put it into today’s colorful lingo, is full of bullshit. I do not wish to dwell too much into the details of his persona, nor the (slightly) favorable character development once the ghosts of his past are revealed, but Frank is poison to April as much as she is to him.

Here are two lonely souls that strive so hard to be this ‘perfect couple’ that the neighborhood views them as, but beyond the facade of their effortless partnership lies the wistfulness of having rushed and projected the promise of happiness and perfection onto the wrong person. Yates illustrates the dangers of romanticizing irrational dreams into theatrical possibilities, in place of accepting one’s limitations in a society driven by conformity.

The character spotlight extends beyond Frank and April Wheeler, with one particular favorite being John Givings. John’s character represents exactly what Frank and April strive to be but tragically fail at. He is a symbol of rebellion against the routine and conventional societal values of the 1950s. Described and no doubt viewed by the two as a “nut case” for having been wheeled off to an insane asylum, he’s probably the one person in the novel that calls things out for what they are and sees through the troubled couple.

Now you’ve said it. The hopeless emptiness. Hell, plenty of people are on to the emptiness part; out where I used to work, on the Coast, that’s all we ever talked about. We’d sit around talking about emptiness all night. Nobody ever said ‘hopeless,’ though; that’s where we’d chicken out. Because maybe it does take a certain amount of guts to see the emptiness, but it takes a whole hell of a lot more to see the hopelessness. And I guess when you do see the hopelessness, that’s when there’s nothing to do but take off. 

The novel is a must-read. There’s something for everyone to take away. We might not be living in 1950s America but there is truthto this story. Yates covers various important themes such as feminism (in specific, through the lack of choice and April’s need for liberation), the cost of freedom and the tragedy of unrealized dreams in a world where they were considered foolish. Yates shows us the bitter truth of mediocrity and the startling reality that may unfold in one’s search for perfection: a prison of one’s own making.

Beatrice Reviews “Animal Farm” by George Orwell

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell
★★★★★

A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible. 


In the fight for freedom, it’s ironic how often the very rules that were meant to protect and preserve, evolve into weapons of mass control and corruption. Time and time again, history has repeated itself and shown us that in the face of tyrannical governments and fascist leaders, the human spirit grows resilient and breaks free from the chains designed to hold it back. And yet, misplaced confidence in figures of hope that reveal their true colors when it’s far too late, lands us back to exactly where we didn’t want to be: part of a broken and degrading system.

Is it not crystal clear, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings?

Animal Farm explores this through the allegory of a group of wrongly exploited and overworked animals that join forces to rebel together for equal rights. The parallels George Orwell drives is pretty evident: Old Major, the wise idealistic old pig who passes on a legacy before his ill-timed death is none other than Karl Marx (The Communist Manifesto, anyone?). Snowball and Napoleon, the two pigs that jointly take on the responsibility of leading the farm post-rebellion, though short-lived in their partnership, are Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin respectively.

However, I do not want to contain myself to this most renowned interpretation of the novella. Animal Farm is a masterpiece because, although Orwell may have intended it to be a satirical criticism of Soviet Russia, it is timeless in the morals it expresses, especially considering the state of modern day governance – both in political and economic environments.

The rebellion against humanity and the fall of Mr. Jones is similar to the initial uprisings various nations have taken against their authoritarian leaders. What follows the sweet but short victory of overthrowing a corrupt government is the true test of these nations. Without proper governance, resources and aid from political allies, most fall apart and give way to tyranny, violence and suffering once again.

I speak with reference to a post-Gaddafi Libya, its citizens helpless and torn apart by the second civil war. Similarly, the war raging through Syria has led to countless lives of innocent children and civilians being misplaced, lost and with tragedy thrust upon them, hope is but a feeble dream. Most recently, the unrest and massacres taking place in Sudan has horrified the world. Following the ousting of Omar al-Bashir in a military coup, the country has descended to absolute chaos. The nation’s citizens demanded a three year transition period to recover and regroup to free themselves completely from the evil roots of the previous regime. This was cut short by the military leaders who scrapped these agreements, cutting down the time to nine months. This is not enough.

If she could have spoken her thoughts; it would have been to say that this was not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves years ago to work for the overthrow of the human race. These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion. 

Animal Farm does a brilliant job of bringing these issues to the light in an allegorical manner which makes it easier for us to comprehend, but not necessarily easier to digest. The rampant abuse of power, manipulation of the media, literal rewrite of societal rules and history to brainwash and control the lower classes and intellectually inferior is beautifully broken down through the novella. Every individual drives a purpose that forms an integral part of this revolution; whether it be as leaders of the movement, as determined and hardworking citizens, as influencers and drivers of political propaganda or as the entitled, risk-averse bourgeoise.

This vicious cycle of war and suffering will not end for as long as we fail to learn from our past errors. It is in our very nature to forget what history has taught us but it is simply not enough to sit on the sidelines and pass comments on political crises faced by our brethren nations from the comforts of our plush sofas and sheltered homes.

It is for this reason that I can wholeheartedly proclaim that this piece of art has found a spot in my heart. Literature has a wondrous way of inspiring individuals, rousing their determination and will to fight for the greater good. Perhaps, that is why countries like China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam (amongst others) have banned Animal Farm. They wouldn’t want anyone getting ideas, now would they?

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

Although Orwell intended for this to be a criticism of Stalinist communism, there are several layers of meaning woven through his prose which can be applied even today.

This book will remain timeless, for as long as we allow ourselves to read it and still wonder, “how do we change?

Beatrice Reviews “Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe” by Melissa de la Cruz

“Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe” by Melissa de la Cruz

★☆☆☆☆

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.


Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe? More like Pride and Prejudice and (a Complete and Total) Injustice.

My habit of starting a book and not being able to put it down till I get to the very last word has nearly always proven a blessing. I can never leave a book unfinished. It’s practically a cardinal sin to me. But the more I read this novel, the more I felt an overwhelming necessity to chuck these principles.

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I cannot begin to comprehend what the author was trying to achieve with this book. Whether or not you’ve read the original Jane Austen masterpiece, this book was just a complete and utter mess. Sure, gender-swapping the roles was an interesting move and the tributes to the original characters and setting by retaining some of the names was evident but in no way redeeming of the utter displeasure the book brought me.

I see not a single way in which this story is worth being branded as a ‘re-telling’ at all. It’s a shame because the idea had a lot of potential and with the right execution, could have actually turned out worlds better than the disappointment it ended up being.

I’m not asking for re-tellings of classic novels to be spot-on. In fact, the more innovative the spark they bring in, the more fun they are. The entire purpose of a re-telling is to have a throwback to the magic of the original while still standing on its own as a memorable read. But nothing – and I truly mean nothing – was worth this re-hash.

The characters were total dillholes. Darcy (a female in this rendition) is a successful, uber-rich hedge fund manager making it big on her own having cut off ties from her family and pursuing a career on Wall Street. I am totally in for ambitious, career-powered women but oh-my-Austen-stars, her character is intolerable.  She certainly did not act, in any way, with the maturity you would expect from a self-made woman. Instead, we see the unravelings of an utterly petty, totally awkward, not to mention, very cringeworthy character.

(Also, author – in this day and age, I doubt a 29 year old single American woman would face as much pressure to get married as Darcy did in the book. It isn’t 1813, anymore.)

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And don’t even get me started on Luke Bennet. The character progression, if I can even call it that, was a wreck and I fail to understand what even happened there. No, really. I’m not even going to bother expanding on this point because it isn’t worth it.

One of my favorite things about the original is the beauty of the writing style. Jane Austen weaves stardust into her words, bringing to life a story for the ages about people that are not only flawed and human, but relatable.

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Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail says it right – the language is pretty flipping amazing. Of course, classics carry a charm that no modern-day rendition could capture in terms of writing style but by the Gods of Literature, at least try to make it readable.

I doubt this book was run by an editor. I spotted quite a few and very small editing mistakes – both in terms of grammar and actual plot loopholes. I’ve read fanfiction by kids that possessed a certain style in their storytelling, that although worked off the ideas of established novels, still made it their own. I just could not bring myself to be okay with the writing style the author employed here. To quote Chandler Bing, it was ‘a big dull, dud’.

This book is the exact example of one of the biggest reasons to stick to the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule when writing. Endless and boring dialogue consumed most of the pages with the characters verbally explaining their back-stories for the reader to hear. Brand names are dropped here and there to have us learn the wealthy lifestyle Darcy leads in New York. Plot arcs are forced down the readers throats simply to have there be this weak connection to the original Pride and Prejudice. It was like the writer was trying to prove a point on an English-Lit paper she had to turn in.

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I’ve never, ever written a review as scathing as this one but that’s also because I never read a book so bad as this. Maybe the strong reaction roots from my undying love for the original work of art but honestly, I’m saddened because this was such a waste.

If you’re going to re-write a legend, please don’t half-ass it and pleaseGodplease, do not think you’ll get away with comparing it to the original if you do. Just – no. Now, excuse me while I step away to go read a Jane Austen original.

I’m in desperate need of some literary healing.