A fantasy that stays true to many young people, that dare cross a border, searching for a better life. A fantasy, but also a cruel reality of what truly happens to these young boys and girls, and all the journeys they have to go through, fighting for a better tomorrow.
This is the first book I have read by Tony Johnston, and the reason I chose to read Beast Rider was because we get to see a twelve-year-old Manuel leave his small town in Mexico to join his older brother in the US.
As a girl myself, I had a family member that lived in another country, and I have always had my inner battle of going abroad to search for a better tomorrow and sadness of leaving my old life behind. With Manuel, you get to feel his hopes and fears, his nostalgia for his hometown and family, his thoughts and learnings at every step of his journey.
A few points bothered me slightly; the grammar in this book needs to be edited immediately. The character keeps using two words in a row row, and after a while while, it gets quite off putting off putting (you see what I mean?). I truly hope this is editing mistake, and not a writing style. There are a lot of Mexican words, without any glossary included. I can understand the words, but some people wouldn’t – and not being able to know the meaning can be a nuisance.
While reading about the journey of Manuel, I couldn’t help but remember exactly how I felt in a few points of my journey:
To Go or Not To Go
Manuel’s brother left the small Mexican village and now lives in Los Angeles. Manuel loves his big brother, and wants to join him desperately. He secretly plans his journey and decides to leave the town, after a lot of hesitation, in order to find his older brother. The battle between to go or not to go is the biggest battle one person can have with themselves. It is always hard, no matter which way one decides to go. And when Manuel decides it is time to go, I knew exactly how he felt, when I myself made that hard decision as well, and left my comfortable home to go and live in a foreign country.
The Journey To a Better Tomorrow
Manuel’s journey is not easy at all. In order to cross the US border, he had to become a ‘’beast rider’’ – someone who hops on a train. He tries multiple times, and various unlucky things happen to him, he gets stopped by the police, he is attached by a gang, people steal his most valuable items. But despite everything, Manuel’s spirit never leaves him, he is always hopeful he will find his brother soon. I loved the motivation and determination in the young Manuel, and it is so amazing to watch him grow through his experiences.
The Final Destination – Was This What I Really Wanted?
After all his endeavors, we finally get to see Manuel reunite with his brother. But what happens if you finally reach your destination, and this happens to not be what you wanted to? Manuel struggles to fit in this lifestyle, he can’t recognise himself, or his brother, and he is emotionally wrecked. He misses his family back home, and he realises that what he thought he would achieve once he finds his brother is not happening. When you feel all roads are closing on you, it is time to make a decision. And making his final decision, Manuel proves to have grown so much, and I admired him this entire book.
A beautiful story about all the emotions and journeys that young people go to. We all have dreams, and some of us reach for them, and act on them. Sometimes, these dreams turn out to be our life-changers, and sometimes, these dreams seem great, but are not ours to take. And this book showed me that that’s fine too. It’s okay to realise you suddenly don’t belong. It’s okay to act on your dreams, and it’s also okay to make mistakes. As long as you stay true to yourself, everything will be alright.
Thank you to the publisher Abrams Books and NetGalley, for providing me with a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
I have read this book so many times. And even after re-reading this book so many times, it is and will always remain one of my favourite books, a story that is evergreen and has such an emotional story worth retelling.
Tracy Chevalier has been inspired by the artwork of Johannes Vermeer, and his most famous painting, the Girl with a Pearl Earring, that she decided to write a story of what she believes might have happened behind that painting. For me, when looking at paintings, this is one of the things that cross my mind – what is the actual story behind it, what was the relationship between the painter and the people on the painting, what were they all thinking and what did their lives look like… In this book, we are able to enter this world, where we see a story of what might have happened here, and this story is a wonderful experience.
This is a story about Griet’s life. Griet lives in a house with her poor family, a blind dad who worked all his life to gather a bit of money for them, and a mother that always fought for the family. With their money running low, Griet has to go and work as a maid in the house of Vermeer, who is a famous painter. Even though quite young, Griet quickly knows her tasks, to iron, to cook, to grab groceries from the market, and the most important bit – to stay out of everyone’s way and do her job.
In the house, things are not easy. Griet is not treated with respect, her family is worried about her, the plague kills her sister and the butcher’s boy wants to marry her. Griet doesn’t feel anything for this boy, but having meat on the table every day for her and her family is too big of an advantage to be just thrown away. I personally never liked the butcher boy, because he knew very well what his advantage was, and he kept reminding Griet how she depends on him to feed her family.
‘’Her words surprised me, but when I looked in her eyes and saw there the hunger for meat that a butcher’s son could provide, I understood why she had set aside her pride.’’
But Griet has a secret crush on Mr. Vermeer, and a great admiration for his work. And Mr. Vermeer notices Griet’s curiosity and gives her tasks around the studio, which in the end, results in him painting her. Griet gets to be involved in his world, learning what he does, and working for him in secret, while his wife is bearing another child of his. Even though Griet secretly feels like she is betraying the wife, she can’t help but feel joj when Vermeer pays attention to her.
‘’ The clothes soaking in the kitchen went cold, the water grey. Tanneke clattered in the kitchen, the girls shouted outside, and we behind closed door sat and looked at each other. And he painted.’’
Now, in the 21st century, it is normal for ladies to pose, and be painted, but in that time, it was a disgrace for a maid to be painted. Men didn’t have the respect towards women as they do now (some of them). And when Griet finds herself being painted, she knows the consequences, but as a maid, she has no voice to object. She knows this quite well.
In the end, the story is very powerful and heartwarming. While we read about how Griet sees and thinks, we will start to love her, watch her grow, and learn so much. I am forever grateful I have found this book.
I have read the 20th Anniversary Edition of this amazing book, which was kindly sent to me by the publishers, The Borough Press, and Love Reading UK, in exchange for my honest review.
2018 was an amazing year for me, as I managed to read 74 books, which is triple of what I read last year. This year I completely dedicated myself to this blog and this amazing community, and I want to thank you all for being here, for reading my reviews and for suggesting me books that I absolutely loved. Here’s to another amazing year ahead of us!
Best books I have read in 2018 (in no particular order):
When I went to the library to pick up the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, I also picked up this book. I wanted to learn more about her last months, as Anne didn’t write in her diary after she was found and brought to the camps.
If you, just like me, are looking for books to help you find this info, please skip this one.
The title is completely misleading, as Anne Frank is barely mentioned in the book, and these women that claim to know her seem to not have known her at all. If I see a person on the far end of the fence, or sit together while the guards are counting us, I wouldn’t consider them a friend. Just a fellow unfortunate companion.
Don’t get me wrong – these six women, that went through all this traumatized period, and are brave enough to tell the story are worth mentioning, and are worth of great recognitions. And this book is also a great value to history of what happened in those cruel places.
But when people use a famous person’s name in order to sell a book, on such painful basis, this is beyond me to comment, so I will leave it to you to make a conclusion on your own.
Among this part, the stories of these six women were heartbreaking, and so well-described, it felt as if I was there for a moment. The things they went through and the families they lost is so sad.
I also liked the old images that were in the middle of the book. They added a real image to the words.
If you want to read more about Anne Frank – choose another book. But if you want to find out about other people’s stories from this time period – grab this book.
We have all heard about or read this book. I remember reading it in high-school as a project. And since I never had written a proper book review, I decided to read it again.
I went to the library, and they only had the short Penguin version, with the most important diary entries of Anne Frank. It is only 65 pages. So, I decided to also grab another book – The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank by Willy Lindwer, so I can write a full overview.
This is a diary of a young girl, and she was writing these stories during two years of hiding. Anne Frank and her family are jews and they live in The Netherlands. After the Germans invade, many people are captured and go to designated camps. A few manage to escape and go into hiding. Anne’s family hides in her father’s office.
If you are reading this diary, without knowing anything about history – this could be a happy story. These diary entries are filled with love and hope, dreams of a young girl, beliefs, opinions, descriptions of her first crush and planning a future.
But this is not a happy story. This girl doesn’t get the chance to grow up. This girl doesn’t get the chance to experience freedom, and live to get to know her grandchildren. This is a sad story of not just Anne Frank, but all these people that have gone through that painful journey.
While this book deserves to be read by every person, and this history needs to keep being told many years after us, I feel the need to make a proper book review.
This is not a well-written book, with a great plot and amazing description. So based on that, this doesn’t stand up to the standards. But this book has a meaning that makes up for all the amateur writing. After all, this was a teenager writing it, without even knowing this will someday be shared with the world.
To all of you that haven’t read it yet – I highly recommend it. If you don’t want to go with the long version, read the short Penguin one, like I did.