The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby (Cambridge Literature) - F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is an odd one. The writing is enchanting, and I don't mind Nick, but the other characters are very nasty.


Gatsby himself is depressing. He didn't ask the girl who he thought he loved to marry her while he had her, and when she got tired of waiting for him, he was unwilling to give up his dream of being with her. He stalks her until he can manipulate her into starting an affair with him, but pushes too hard and doesn't take her seriously when, in the confrontation scene between Gatsby and Tom, she admits that she did, in fact, used to love Tom. He is so hung on his dream of being with her, that he refuses to consider the fact that she might not want to be with him. And in his years of dreaming of her, he built up his memory of her to the point that it depicted a goddess, rather than a woman. He was undoubtedly disappointed with her once he had her, but he was so attached to his dream that he wasn't ready to give her up yet.


Daisy is annoying. She is, sadly, trapped in a loveless marriage. She had loved him before, but their love faded with time and her husband had been cheating on her, and she was aware of it. As sad as that is, it seemed like she was getting by, by clinging to her friends and to her daughter, but when Gatsby came back into her life, she decided she was willing to have an affair, but, when he pushed her too hard, insisting on her behalf that she was leaving Tom and that she never loved him, she decided (understandably) that she wouldn't find joy in him either. But she was willing to let him take the blame for her vehicular homicide, and she was so indifferent that she didn't even call, much less come, when Gatsby was killed.


Tom is obnoxious. He thinks he is entitled to his wife and a mistress. He can't understand why his wife might no longer love him, nor can he understand why his mistress's husband might not like his wife gallivanting off with another man. He is stupid and loud.


Jordan Baker is shallow. She lies, probably cheats, and doesn't mean a thing she says. She starts an affair with Nick, but then is shocked when he eventually splits with her, even though it is implied that she had been considering splitting with him. As though she is too good for anyone to break up with.


Nick is a strange narrator. For some reason he comes to like and respect Gatsby. While I admire his loyalty, I don't know what he saw in Gatsby to make him so loyal. He doesn't seem to have a problem with Gatsby and Daisy having an affair, though he's discomforted by Tom's affair. He had a fling with Jordan Baker, even though he knows she's a liar.


There are some nasty stereotypes of Jews in this book. Worse even than Fagin in Oliver Twist. Fagin may have been presented more as a villain, but you could understand how he got to be so low in the world and so despicable, but Wolfshiem is a stereotype without any understandable reason for how he came to be how he was. I'm not sure how Jews feel about the term "Jewess," but I've only ever heard it used by Nazis, so I was discomforted by the casual use in this book.


I heard this book described as being a depiction of the time between World War I and the Great Depression when too many people had too much money and too much time on their hands. And apparently not enough morals. It certainly depicts that well.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird, 50th Anniversary Edition - Harper Lee

How does one review a classic when so many people have reviewed it before? This was a beautiful book, even though the unfairness depicted in it hurts.


My only complaint is that there was one disturbing thing that was not addressed. In the trial scene, Tom Robinson said that Mayella Ewell said she'd never kissed a grown man before and "what her pa do to her don't count." I suppose it's because the trial was for Tom Robinson, not Mr. Ewell, and in that time, most people wouldn't turn on a white man while they had a black man to browbeat, but I found the implication to be extremely disturbing and would have liked to have seen the town turn on Mr. Ewell for sexually molesting his daughter, even if they wouldn't turn on him for physically beating her or for bearing false witness against an innocent man.

Confusing Book

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

2 1/2 stars.


Kurt Vonnegut is undoubtedly a good writer. The trouble is, that I enjoyed the introduction where he was describing his own experiences much more than the bulk of the book where he told us Billy Pilgrim's story. Kurt himself is a more interesting person than Billy. Or maybe I just didn't like the fact that we had to decide whether Billy was crazy or really was kidnapped by Tralfamadorians. Typically, in a book where we're left to decide if something is imagined or real I will imagine that it's real, but I just couldn't this time. The Tralfamadorians are too bizarre and their concept of time is too unbelievable. I didn't like the descriptions of Billy's time on Tralfamadore, or the fact that in an earlier part of the book we were told that 'Billy was cheating on his wife for the first and only time,' but if Tralfamadore was real, than he cheated on his wife multiple times with the movie star who the Tralfamadorians had also kidnapped. Kilgore Trout's ideas about re-writing the Gospels say to me that he (so possibly Vonnegut) didn't truly understand who Jesus is and what he did. Though the rewrite came with the question "why are so many Christians so Cruel?" so I suppose that it may be that it isn't intended to be taken seriously, but simply ask the question, "if this was the way the Gospels were written, would less Christians commit evil acts?" I doubt it. If a Christian is willing to commit atrocities with the Bible the way it is, why the heck would the care if Jesus hadn't been the Son of God until after His death?


There was too much sex in this book for my liking. The members of the Beaumont township in Footloose may have been wrong for judging this book only from of its' name, but they likely would have decided to burn it even if they had read it.


Oddly enough, I had never heard of the bombing of Dresden. I knew that Berlin and some other German cities had been bombed toward the end of the war, and I focused on WWII in my final year of high school, but if the bombing of Dresden was mentioned in any of the books I read or any of the documentaries I watched, they must have skimmed over the horror of it, or made the claim that it had to happen. I don't know if there were places in Dresden that were helping the German war effort. I don't know if there were places whose destruction helped the Allies, but I believe that the firebombing of Dresden without consideration for the refugees and other innocent civilians, or even the slightest attempt to avoid residential areas was wrong.


I was surprised that Billy Pilgrim was based of a real person, Edward Crone, who the author named in his interview at the end of the audiobook version I listened to. Even though the man gave up, didn't eat and died, his family was likely still alive and even though the majority of Billy's actions were not dishonorable, his bizarre belief that he had been kidnapped by aliens might bother the family of the very real Edward Crone.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. The writing was excellent, but there was a great deal of profanity, and I couldn't quite follow the story of Billy Pilgrim, who I had difficulty caring about as his narration jumped all over the place. I've seen Christian criticism of the book for the profanity and for the rewritten fake Gospel, but I hadn't seen that at the time I picked it up. I really don't know how I feel about this book.


1984 by George Orwell

1984 - George Orwell

I went into this book expecting to be scared by it, and expecting to love it. While I was somewhat scared by it, I, unfortunately, didn't like it very much.


I really didn't like Winston very well. He is a weak, lustful, unpleasant character who contemplates murder and rape. I didn't like Julia. She is a sex-addict who is rebelling against the government with promiscuity, but she doesn't really have a reason, other than her desire for sex, for fighting Big Brother. The two of them use each other. You can't expect me to believe that she really loved him after watching him from a distance and never speaking to him. She was twenty-seven, and beautiful, while he was nearly forty and, from the description we're given, likely not very handsome. But she had her first affair with a guy in his sixties or seventies, when she was sixteen, so I guess the relatively small age difference between her and Winston wouldn't bother her. And he contemplated raping and murdering her. I believe that they may have grown to care for one another after weeks of their affair, but certainly they didn't love each other enough to stand the thing they were most afraid of for the other. Whenever Winston would talk about things besides sex, things that interested him, like the faked history, Julia showed how little she cared about the things he cared about by falling asleep. The only reason why I cared about these two characters at all is because they were marginally less horrible than everyone else in the book.


In Julia and the Party, Orwell shows two sexual perversions. Julia's is to make everything about sex. To be so obsessed with sex that your every action is taken in the hope of getting sex. The Party's is to claim that all sex is bad and the only reason to force yourself to have it is in order to have children. Children are the natural and beautiful result of sex, but sex in marriage is not ugly or evil, even if the couple is not trying to have children at the time. Orwell makes clear that the Party's view of sex is evil, but he leaves readers to come to their own conclusions about Julia's, though he seems to lean toward supporting her views as he describes the fanaticism of the party members as coming from the suppressed sex-drive. As though people who don't have sex must certainly have something wrong with them.


George Orwell seems to be anti-Catholic. The Spanish Inquisition lie has been sold for centuries, and during Orwell's time, one couldn't just look it up on the internet and find well-researched articles explaining why the Spanish Inquisition was less violent than most of the other medieval court systems (one such article here ) so if his repeated bashing of the inquisition had been the only anti-Catholic view in the book I probably would have dismissed it as ignorance, but there other such jabs at the Church in general in the book
"Even the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was tolerant by modern standards. Part of the reason for this was that in the past no government had the power to keep its citizens under constant surveillance."
"He did not see that the continuity of an oligarchy need not be physical, nor did he pause to reflect that hereditary aristocracies have always been short-lived, whereas adoptive organizations such as the Catholic Church have sometimes lasted for hundreds or thousands of years."
"In the Middle Ages there was the Inquisition. It was a failure. It set out to eradicate heresy, and ended by perpetuating it. For every heretic it burned at the stake, thousands of others rose up. Why was that? Because the Inquisition killed its enemies in the open, and killed them while they were still unrepentant: in fact, it killed them because they were unrepentant."


I suspected Orwell to be anti-Catholic after reading this book. While I was looking up the quotes from it, I found articles declaring Orwell to have been both anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic.


I found the world created by Orwell, which is held up by members of both the right and the left in our current political environment as the future if the other party takes power, to be both frightening and believable in all respects save one. You cannot expect me to believe that in all the time that the Party was in power, that not one person could withstand the torture and refuse to accept the lies they were told. That is, Julia and Winston both gave up and betrayed one another, screaming for the other to be tortured rather than them, but they were both weak people who cared for each other, but did not have a great deal of love in their hearts. I find it unbelievable that there wouldn't be one single person who was strong enough, or filled enough with love, that they could withstand the tortures and so die unrepentant to the Party. Whether it be someone who truly loved another and refused to ask the torture be passed to them, or a Christian willing to be a martyr for God. I simply cannot imagine that there wouldn't have been one person brave enough, or, maybe not brave, but strong enough in their belief that they were unwilling to betray it, even to escape the torture of whatever they feared the most.

The last problem that I had with this book was the ending. I suppose that Orwell felt no hope for the future and so wanted to share his hopelessness with us, but I hated the ending of the book. He should have given us something. Whether it be Winston still quietly hating Big Brother, but being defeated and thinking that his hatred was wrong, or a hope that the Proles really would one day bring down the Party, or even just the sight of a spark of hatred in the eye of another party member, but to leave us without a hope for humanity was extremely frustrating.

Good Premise, Bad Execution

Girl about Town - Adam Shankman, Laura L. Sullivan

I thought that this would be a book to challenge my apathy toward the YA genre. It almost was. But unfortunately it had a few too many flaws.


I hated Lulu. She was good for the first section, but once she'd been in Hollywood for a year she was shallow and self-absorbed. And the authors' attempt to paint her as a compassionate person by giving a poor man who had attempted to sexually assault her was a fail. Her willingness to do just about anything (short of attempted murder or risking suicide) to get fame and money and keep fame and money was nauseating. She and Sal really would have been a good match. They would have been a good powerhouse villain couple. Too bad Lulu (and the authors) didn't get the memo. I kept waiting for Lulu to have some character growth, but she never did. I don't know what Freddie saw in her.


Freddie was fantastic. Recently disillusioned with his father's ill-gotten wealth, he's been living as a hobo for a year, and he is sweet, sincere, brave, strong and kind. He isn't bitter with his situation (unlike Lulu) and he's willing to sacrifice his own wants to help her, even though she's extremely selfish. I honestly don't know what he saw in her that made him want to stay with her after he got her name cleared. I mean, she's beautiful and headstrong, but she seems to have more bad characteristics then good ones, and Freddie doesn't seem like he would be shallow enough to stick with her just because she's pretty. I wish that this book would have been about Freddie only, without Lulu.


Vasily's story seemed to me to be a way for the author to show his anti-Catholicism. Homosexuality was not accepted by any religion, and was still largely condemned by atheists and agnostics in the thirties, but of course the Catholic Polish parents are completely evil who would do force one son into the priesthood and the other into their meatpacking business. Ugh. If it hadn't been for his story being used as a conduit for anti-Catholic propaganda, I would have really liked Vasily, even though I don't agree with homosexual actions.


The ending was terrible. After Lulu spent most of the book being a weak and whiney character, the authors decided to wave flags that said 'feminist' on them by making her break up with Freddie because she doesn't want people to think her success was because he was rich (if she had really loved him then she would have been willing to put up with people's idiocy in attributing her successes to him,) but then he comes groveling to her because he doesn't mind being a 'kept man,' and he doesn't care if people attribute his successes to her. This makes her look like a selfish brat (which, granted, she is,)but it also makes him look like a weak fool who is willing to love someone who doesn't love him back. He left his father with all his wealth, he left his beautiful fiancé who he had just realized was shallow, but he's willing to put up with Lulu's unreasonable behavior? I don't buy it. In addition to being unfair to Freddie, and making Lulu look even worse than she had the entire book, this also gives an unreasonable and unrealistic representation of a relationship. Essentially Lulu isn't willing to give anything to Freddie, but Freddie is more than willing to do extra work to keep their relationship from failing. That is not how real relationships work. If one person has to do all the work to keep the relationship going, then it's not really a relationship. Relationships are supposed to be partnerships, where the two parties are more-or-less equal. Sometimes one person is doing more work, and sometimes the other is, but overall the amount of work must come to about half-and-half, and that is not what this book showed. One other point about this books flop of an ending. One way to see whether you aren't being sexist toward men, is to reverse the scenario; if Freddie had told Lulu that he wanted to break up with her because he was afraid that people would attribute his successes to her and she came back, grovelingly telling him that she didn't mind being a 'kept woman;' would you find that offensive? I would, and so I also found the treatment of Freddie's character offensive.


This could have been a really good book. It was different from most YA books, it was interesting, and I was in the mood to listen to 20s-50s big band music, which was part of the reason why I picked up this book when I did, but there were a few too many problems, and the ending destroyed the bit of respect I had still had before I finished it.

Disappointing for a Tolkien

The Story of Kullervo - J.R.R. Tolkien, Verlyn Flieger

Let's just say that this isn't the best of Tolkien's works. It probably doesn't help that it was unfinished and Christopher Tolkien wasn't the editor.

Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk

Rightfully Ours - Carolyn Astfalk

4 1/2 stars


I received an digital ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wow. I didn't think I would find a couple who I liked together as much as Landen and Torina from The Seer and the Sword, but I really like Paul and Rachel.


My favorite parts of this book were where the characters were going through external troubles and supported each other. The depiction of their relationship when they weren't having the external troubles was realistic (at least to my knowledge) in every way except for the fact that, once they were a couple, they didn't have one argument. They had a fight before they acknowledged their wish for more than just friendship, and they had moments of mild irritation with one another after they had kissed, but they didn't have any serious fights, which as much as I dislike seeing characters who I ship argue, I think that it could have been a way to show how they chose to love. In the book they were fighting with the temptation to show their love in physical ways before they were married, but because they never fought they also never had the opportunity to take a good look at their relationship and decide if it was worth the work it takes to remain in love. I got so nervous when they were going through temptations. I was nervous through a good portion of the book starting from the moment when they [spoiler] had their first kiss after having a little bit too much champagne and going until about the time Paul talked to Sean about his relationship with Rachel.[/spoiler]


My two favorite parts were the times right after Paul's dad died and when he saved Rachel's life. These two parts of the story showed Paul's vulnerability and his strong love for people, his dad, and Rachel. It seemed like Paul's personality was fleshed out a little bit more than Rachel's in the story. I can't remember if we had more time from Paul's point of view or if it just felt like that because he went through more trials than Rachel. Don't get me wrong, I still like Rachel a lot, but Paul was my favorite in this book. (hey, I just realized that Paul and Rachel have the same names as Paul and Rachel from The Midnight Dancers


I didn't like Sean at first. The first moment we're introduced to him he is blaming Paul for their missing a turn in the road and we really didn't get to know him after that until after he'd gotten married, and then I found that I really, really liked him. I just wished I hadn't gotten the wrong idea about his character before that. I was mildly confused as to why Paul wouldn't move in with Sean and Amanda after Sean moved out of the hotel since the whole reason why Paul had been living with the Muellers was so that Sean could be reimbursed for having to move to Pennsylvania to work, which the company would only do if Sean was living by himself in a hotel. I mean, I guess if the Muellers didn't mind Paul it was probably nice for Sean and Amanda to live by themselves, but Sean was Paul's legal guardian so it seemed odd.


Rachel's dad was pretty well characterized as the kind but strict, protective parent, but we didn't get to know her mother or brother, James, very well, and I sort of wish we could have gotten to know Paul's dad before he died. Though that probably wouldn't have fit into the book very well.


Parents and cautious teens should know that one of the main plot-points is that two teens in a serious relationship are making decisions about sex and marriage, and whether to save sex for marriage. [spoiler] While they save sex until marriage, they had several moments of strong temptation that could make younger teens uncomfortable.[/spoiler]


As a pop-musically challenged person I didn't know any of the songs that were mentioned in the books, and, although the lyrics did fit Paul's situation I didn't have the ability to hear in my head what they sounded like, and the Springsteen one was the only one with a performer listed with it so I could look it up. This didn't bother me terribly, but I found a couple of the lyrics to be moving and wanted to see if the music did them justice.


I don't usually like romance books. Christian romance books have a tendency to be too sickly sweet and overly simplified, and secular romance books are too stuffed full of sex. This book reached a very good balance, not being too sex-filled, but also being more candid than most Christian romances about the way relationships really work. I really enjoyed this book and it's characters. I think that it would be nice to visit Rachel and Paul again, maybe with them as side characters for another book. [spoiler] Though I would have liked to see Paul and Rachel's wedding, and Paul's reaction to Rachel's pregnancy,[/spoiler] I found the ending to be a satisfying conclusion to a very good book.

Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak

Dull. Good basic plotline. Convoluted. Atmospheric. Drags out. Too wordy. Beautiful phrases placed like pearls in the middle of long, boring paragraphs. I can't say that I found any of the characters all that likeable either. Last third or quarter of the book was good, but I am so glad to be done with this book.

I went into this book expecting to love it. Shostakovich is wonderful and he and Pasternak were living in the same time and place, and Shosty wrote the music to the 1971 version of King Lear, and Pasternak translated the Shakespeare to Russian, but Shosty's music is beautiful, and full of meaning, where as Pasternak's writing is full of meaning, but the beauty comes from far and few between as beautiful diamonds of quotes that get your hopes up that the writing will get better, only to have the next twenty or forty pages be as dull as the last twenty or forty that came before.

And on another note, I am very frustrated by the Wikipedia description of Lara and Komarovsky's relationship as 'an affair.' That they were relieved that Lara's mother hadn't learned of their 'affair.' Komarovsky was Lara's mother's boyfriend. If such a relationship happened in todays society it would be called sexual abuse, and I feel that in descriptions and analysis of the book it should be called that as well.

But Daddy!

But Daddy! - Tom Buck This was a fast and funny read, which was just what I needed after Doctor Zhivago.

The good: This was a hilarious book about the difficulties of having a large family. It was told from the point of view of the father, and it was hilarious. I felt like it could have been longer and included more misadventures for the family, but I did find the book to be a fantastically funny adventure.

The bad: I got frustrated every time Tom or Pat would pray for the pope to come to a "practical decision on the pill." Right and wrong isn't always practical, and, even though I doubt very much it was intended that way, the fact that the timing of the prayers always happened as chaos was erupting almost seems to imply that they would have liked less children, which makes it sound like they are wishing away some of their children. Again, I doubt that it was intended that way, but I still found these prayers to be frustrating. Also, we don't find out what happened in the end. The book is subtitled "How Pat and Tom Buck raised 11 children-and survived." Surely if they'd had another baby that would have found its way into the subtitle? There is also a picture of the family on the cover flap and there are eleven children, the youngest, Adrian I assume, appears to be between the ages of 3-5, so if they had had another child at the end of the book then the child would likely have appeared in this picture. I feel this book could use a sequel, and that it could have some of the kids' points of view as well as the father's.

The ugly: "Although it might appear to the contrary, it is not intended to make a case for the canonization of Margaret Sanger." Okay, this book was published in 1967 and Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, so the author couldn't have known what a plague Sanger's organization would be on society, but even in jest, 'canonization of Margaret Sanger' is not a phrase that I have ever wanted to hear or see or even contemplate anywhere, ever. And even now, Margaret Sanger's racist ideas and arguments for eugenics and forced sterilization are well hidden from the public, so how could they have known that Sanger was a sick racist who wanted to eliminate minorities only one year after the woman's death. But I still never wanted to see or hear those words strung together in that manner. I wish that the book could be re-released (along with a sequel) with those words eliminated from the introduction so that more people can enjoy this book again, and without having to have the idea of Margaret Sanger being anywhere within one-hundred-thousand miles of canonization put in their head.


Heartless - Marissa Meyer

2 1/2 stars

This book started off beautifully. I loved the food, and the characters, and the strangeness of the world. It went downhill from the time of the mockturtle. I found that I couldn't understand how Cath, sweet, irritating and indecisive as she was, could turn so far as to become the nasty Queen of Hearts. Not without the man she loved--Jest--betraying her, which he did not. While at the end she certainly did act like the Queen of Hearts, there was far too much of a gap between the two personalities, without seeing her character growth (shrinking) into that role. I still am a fan of Marissa Meyer, but this wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be.

The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil - Soman Chainani

1/2 stars. Doesn't even deserve that.

I seriously considered not adding this book, it was that bad, but I guess that people deserve to see the bad reviews so that they can decide if they want to read it.

The premise for this book was very good, but the execution was a fail.

I kept thinking of the characters as being sixteen at least, Sophie is obsessed with looks and frequently wears what is described to be extremely immodest clothing--not something that I think is particularly appropriate in a middle grade novel, especially since the characters are somewhere between the ages of eleven and fourteen. And all of the girls in the 'good' side are obsessed with boys. Not just normal middle school crushes, but ready-to-get-married-and-have-sex obsessed. This review by Becky, has a lot of good points to it that I didn't notice, or didn't quite catch as serious as they were, especially at the problems Becky points out at the end of her review.

Here are a few other problems I had.

This level of creepiness does not belong in the kid's section. I liked a lot of the super creepy points like that if they failed the characters would be turned into objects or animals, but that is beyond creepy for kids ages 9-12.

The stereotypes could have been played for further. Some of the best villains are the most beautiful. That is something that I thought the author could have played very well with Sophie, but he chose not to. Either the characters are chosen purely by look or purely by personality. If it was by look than Sophie would have been put in the school for good with all of the catty annoying girls, and Agatha would have gone into the school for evil with the people endeavoring to be the worst people they could be. If it was based on personality only, than the girls were put in the right schools (Sophie is vain and selfish, and perfectly poised to become an evil queen, while Agatha is humble and kind, and always sees the best in others, even her dreadful friend and a gargoyle that tried to kill her,) while all (or almost all) of the other characters were put in the wrong schools. Either way there was a big plot hole in this regard. I also felt that, with the schools the way they were, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast (both tales were mentioned) would have had to have been stories of failure, and here's why. The Evil Queen is beautiful, so with the way that this book as organized, she should have been good, which means that she could have gone through the school for good, but then become evil, so, because she didn't do what she was supposed to do, the Snow White fairy tale should have been hidden from the students at the school. The same goes for Beauty and the Beast. The beast is ugly, hideous, which means, by the rules that this book set up, he should have been evil. But I imagined that when he and Beauty fell in love, what ever mogrifying enchantment that the school put on him would have come off, showing that he was good all along, and therefore putting shame on the school. Honestly, I think that the story of Beauty and the Beast from this perspective could have been far more interesting than what the author gave us. Can someone please write that? I'd enjoy a book like that if they also didn't include the inappropriate stuff that Becky's review discussed.

The ending was a huge mess. I'm willing to buy that either the birds put Sophie and Agatha in the wrong schools and then didn't want to admit to making a mistake, or that the story dude decided to give a beautiful villain a try to try and even the odds, but even so, the ending was a mess. We were fed this idea that Sophie was going to become evil, and that was what I wanted, but the whole idea that the good must be physically beautiful did not work at all. If evil is physically ugly, that how could Sophie be so evil? (Which she appears to have been, since she killed a wolf and destroyed a magic goose because the goose didn't want to grant her selfish wish to force Agatha into the evil school, though that really should have been better explained.) Then Sophie became physically ugly, and felt a desire to return to good, that didn't make any sense. What I wanted was for Sophie to give into her bad intentions and her jealousy, and to embrace evil in the end. What I wanted was for Agatha to become good, and become a strong leader so that Tedros fell in love with her strength, and her ability to see good in everyone and everything, and the fact that she didn't fall at his feet because he was handsome. What we got was this weird waffling from Sophie, and Tedros and Agatha falling in love for literally no reason. And Sophie and Agatha apparently becoming lovers? I know there are a lot of people who will celebrate this book just because it had an apparent homosexual pairing, but while I enjoyed their friendship (or rather, Agatha's being a friend to Sophie while Sophie takes advantage of Agatha in every way) I honestly didn't buy them being 'in love.' And because the premise appears to be good, I feel that Christians deserve some warning for that ending. I honestly didn't know what was going on from the moment Sophie turned ugly and Agatha was seen as beautiful. Suddenly Agatha and Tedros were in love, when they hated each other before, and yes, Agatha's exposing her cheating with Sophie to save his life could have helped to warm him to her, but she suddenly found herself inarticulate in his presence, and he suddenly decided that he loved her, with absolutely no middle ground, and all of a sudden, Agatha stopped wanting to go home. The whole point of the book was that Agatha didn't want to be there, as Sophie should have grown more evil, Agatha should have grown (slowly) more enigmatic so that people were willing to follow her. And what had previously been a very simple, fairly well-built world came crashing down. Suddenly there were no rules and the action didn't make sense.

The other thing that didn't make sense was that, the wolves were supposed to be failed good students and the fairies were supposed to be failed evil students, but, while I could buy the fairies, the only one that did anything of any importance was the one that was from Sophie and Agatha's village and bit pretty girls, the wolves are another matter. As Becky's review pointed out, one forced Sophie into the uniform, implying that he stripped her and put on the proper outfit. That is sick and evil. One was the torturer who took pleasure in hurting people in the most unimaginable ways. That is sick and evil. But while those two things can be argued away as that the wolves, being properly good, would enjoy hurting those who were in training to become properly bad, the one thing that cannot be explained away was that, when Agatha came to the evil school to try to get Sophie so that they could escape, she was chased by a wolf, and climbed onto the roof to escape it. The wolf then told her that there were worse things than wolves and left her to be, he assumed, eaten by the gargoyles. If the wolves were really good, then you'd think it would have helped Agatha back into the castle and then forced her back to the school for good. I just don't buy what the author was trying to sell. Plus, there is one male fairy and a bunch of female ones, but there only appear to be male wolves, and I find the uneven gender fail-rate to be rather unbelievable, and sort of sexist against men, because it implies that a lot more men cannot control their propensity for bad. Given that more men then women are in jail for serious crimes, I would find an imbalance believable if it were not so extreme.

My final complaint, and I'm sure I have missed things that I initially had a problem with because I waited so long to write this review, is that the book, through it's characters repeatedly tells us that all children are either good or bad, and ignores the fact that all children have both good and bad in them, but usually learn to do evil as they get older, from the adults in their lives. I actually was okay with the characters saying this, because I thought that the first book would be about Sophie becoming evil and Agatha becoming more confident, the second book would be about Agatha and Sophie fighting until Agatha managed to win Sophie and the other 'evil' children's love and respect, and bring them back to good, and I thought the third book would be about them trying to defeat the school master and end the school. But the ending of this book was so jumbled and confusing that it didn't really have an end, and the premise of the next book honestly sounds boring, and I have no intention of continuing with the series. And while my idea for the layout of the series may have been predictable, I honestly would have really enjoyed seeing it happen, but this book was an utter failure with the ending, and I don't see why the ending that we got needed to have a sequel.

So, in conclusion, the premise was a very good one, and Agatha was a wonderful character, but the plot from just about the half-way point is awful and confusing, and the book has some extremely creepy/disgusting implications (as pointed out in the review that I linked above,) and I find myself wondering why the heck the publishers would publish this as a kids book. Heck, why would they publish this at all? I would love to see someone with a better sense of plot, morality, and the knowledge that sometimes making characters be naked is inappropriate and can become creepy and sick, redo this book, preferably with the predictable plot-line that I laid out, but any attempt to fix this mess of a book would probably infringe on copyright, so I guess we're stuck with this terrible garbage where a wonderful story could have been.

City of Fallen Angels

City of Fallen Angels - Cassandra Clare Honestly, Clary, Simon and Jace have just been getting less likeable as the book has gone on, quite the opposite of what is supposed to happen with character growth. Add to that that the story wasn't as interesting as the first books in the series, and I was quite let down. The first two and a half books dealt with legends and folk-tales, but now that the angels are interacting with the humans every other month, the inaccurate angelology is bothering me. What was with the stupid claim that Adam had a first wife who wouldn't obey him? If Eve couldn't even obey God to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, how can Cassandra Clare expect us to believe that Eve would obey Adam? The story of Genesis is interpretable as a parable, but I honestly don't know how it could be interpreted the way it was in this book. I will probably finish this series because I enjoyed the first two books so much, and I will probably give to new series a try since everyone on booktube seems to be raving about it, but if I don't start to leave these books feeling satisfied, then I will probably stop forcing myself to read them. Even via audiobook, this book felt long.

The Princess Troll

The Princess Troll - Leah R. Cutter 3 1/2 stars

I received an early reviewer’s ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review. (Sorry it took so long for me to finish it.)

This review contains spoilers.

I had no idea this was a sequel. I probably would not have requested it had I realized. None the less, I enjoyed this story. I was not very impressed by the first third or so of the book. I was confused. I kept thinking that it must be a sequel, but there was no point in the first pages of the book that stated what the series was, nor did it say on Goodreads or the LibraryThing giveaway that it was a sequel. It wasn’t until the end papers (if they can be called that in an ebook) that I finally found where it said it was a sequel. The part that confused me most was Christine’s and Tina’s parents. I was so confused when I was told that Christine didn’t trust Tina’s parents, and then a few pages later, that she got along well with her parents. Because Christine was adopted by Tina’s biological parents, and I was told that Tina’s parents (without mention that they were her adopted parents) had switched Tina with Christine to distract the demons. I was honestly thinking that the author had carelessly left two different versions of Christine’s relationship with her parents in the book, and I didn’t understand why, since Christine and Tina had learned of their switching, Tina didn’t come to the family dinner. I didn’t realize that whenever Tina’s parents were mentioned it was referring to her adopted parents (or, the people who stole her from her biological parents since Christine’s parents didn’t willingly part with her) and whenever it mentioned Christine’s parents it was referring to Tina’s biological parents, Christine’s adopted parents. I still don’t know why Tina doesn’t hang out with Christine’s family since they are technically her family too, and her adopted family kidnapped her from her biological parents, and should be in jail for that. The other part that confused me was Patrick the Ogre. He’s mentioned several times, but we never are told who he is, other than that he’s an ogre.

The book felt like a middle grade book at times. Not because it would be appropriate for middle grade (the content isn’t terrible, but there are references to sex and mild cussing,) but because the pacing was very fast. Almost too fast, which is how I often feel while reading middle-grade novels.

I thought it was kind of weird that Christine’s water elemental was not sentient, the fire was like a wild animal that had to be tamed, the wind was sentient and had to be bargained with, and the earth was practically another being that could have lived on its own without Christine.

I was convinced that the old troll was Christine’s grandfather. I was mildly disappointed that he was her uncle. I was also curious as to why Christine’s father was in jail because the king thought he’d kidnapped her, but the king has no heirs. I don’t remember the book saying this, but it seems as though Christine’s mother was the king’s sister? And so her father wouldn’t be an heir to the throne? I wasn’t sure.

I liked Christine a lot. I really liked Christine’s brother. I wish we would have seen more of him. I didn’t really like Joe from the moment he was mentioned. I’m glad he and Christine broke up. Christine’s parents seemed nice, but we didn’t get to know them very well. We heard a lot about Tina, but we barely saw her, so I’m still not sure how I feel about her. The wooden man (I forget his name) seemed interesting, but we didn’t get to know him very well. The demon seemed interesting. As a villain, he may have had some interesting motives, though we still don’t know what all of his motives were.

I don’t like to read books with angels as characters. They always mess up their angelology. Why couldn’t the angels be fairies or elves?

There were a few mild typos, but I assume that is because this was an early reviewer’s copy.

Because I was having so much trouble understanding the world I really didn’t get into the book until I was about a third in, and then, middle-grade-type pacing or not, the story really got interesting. I wish that the story would have concluded in this book, but I’m sure the third book will be good as well. I am sure that if you have read the first book in the series, this book will be excellent. As someone who came in to the series with this book, it was enjoyable, but mildly confusing.

52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol

52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol - Bob Welch This book really didn't have anything exceptional in it. I have read A Christmas Carol every year for the past... um, more than five years (I forget when I started this annual reading.) I was really hoping for something that could get into the core of Dickens's tale and help me to see lessons that I hadn't found myself before. This did not give me that. Every lesson the author found was something that I could have found myself. Most which I already was aware of. Don't get me wrong, it was good for me to see some of the lessons in the book rearticulated in a different way, but I didn't feel this book had enough depth to be worth the time it took me to read it. I was also disappointed by the fact that the author couldn't even find 52 lessons in Dickens's book, but had to rely on some of the movies (and missing one or two lessons he could have found in the book.) While bringing in some of the lessons from movies might not have been bad, I really wanted the focus on the book, and if, in the midst of explaining a lesson the author drew examples from the films I wouldn't have minded at all, but there are lessons dedicated only to parts of the movies that were not originally in the book.

What's worse, is that the author probably should have re-read (and re-watched) his material. There were at least two errors that I caught. The first mistake was in Lessons 16 Life Is Best Lived When You're Awake. 'I never noticed that. --Scrooge, in the 1984 movie version, after the Ghost of Christmas Past points out that Belle "resembled your sister."' There is, in fact, no part in that movie where the ghost tells Scrooge that Belle resembles his sister. I suppose one could argue that the actresses do indeed resemble each other, and in the story, the two women are filled with joy, love and Christmas spirit, but the ghost never compares the two. Instead, it tells Scrooge that Fred, his nephew, resembles Fan (Fred's mother.) The author easily could have corrected this without effecting his lesson. The second error that I caught was in Lesson 44 Don't Give Expecting to Receive. In the chapter, the author states that "Scrooge's calling a cab for the little boy because the turkey would be too heavy for the lad to carry may well have been the man's first expression of empathy." I was never, in any of my readings of the book, under the impression that the little boy carried the turkey to the Cratchit's house. The book says that Scrooge told the boy to "Go and buy it, and tell 'em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it." He told the boy he'd give him a shilling (or half-a-crown if he was quick) to bring the turkey to him, but it never said that he gave him the money to buy the turkey. It says that "the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried." In other words, he paid for the turkey, and recompensed the boy separately. So he bought the turkey himself, and recompensed the boy for the time and effort it took him to go and fetch it, along with the man who carried it. None of the movies were ever under the impression that the boy was the one to carry the turkey to Bob Cratchit's either. Some show the man who delivered the turkey as having his own cart, and some show Scrooge paying for the cab as it says in the book, but none show the little boy carrying it. As with the other mistake, the lesson would not have been effected very much by the correction of the mistake.

I probably would have been more forgiving of these mistakes had I felt that I learned much from the book, but it was a very touchy-feely book that, while sweet, didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, and thus, I was already frustrated by it by the time I found these mistakes.
Busy Dizzy (Inspirational bedtime story for kids ages 4-8) - Orly Katz

I received this book for free via a LibraryThing giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.


It's difficult to review a picture book as an adult, but I did enjoy this one. I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield last year, and am currently reading Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. Both discuss ways of fighting Resistance. This seems like a child's book for how to combat Resistance. It has cute art and good rhymes. Growing up I always liked books that rhymed. I thought it was odd that the order the children were introduced (David, Sophie and Joe) was not the order that we got the details of their Dizzies (Sophie, David and Joe.) I'm not sure if this is something that would significantly bother young children, but I noticed it.


The only thing that I think could be potentially problematic is the lack of specification between when Dizzies tell you not to do something good (not cry, play with your friends, give a teacher an answer you know) and when you want something bad, and your conscience tells you not to. The teacher describes Dizzies as a voice that tells you not to do something that you want to do, but there will be times when you want to do something bad and your conscience tells you not to.


So in the end, this is a good book to discuss with a child the strange Resistance that we sometimes have to doing something good, but be careful that they don't confuse Dizzies (Resistance) with their conscience.

Children's Books ages 4-8: The Princess Who Wanted a Friend

Children's Books ages 4-8: The Princess Who Wanted a Friend - Dr. Orly Katz I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

4 1/2 stars

I really enjoyed this little book. I loved the rhyming, the story and the little lesson at the end. The book, overall was excellent. The illustrations were a disappointment. They were boring, and unexceptional, some of them were repeated, and they actually distracted me from the story. The story and rhyming were so good that I feel this story deserved some wonderful illustrations to go with it (I think that some beautiful watercolor paintings would fit this book well.)

So, I liked this book a lot. The story was cute, the rhyming was good, and the lesson was wonderful, but the pictures were not good.