From the Archive: Enchanted

Sometimes I think I should give this book another chance.  Maybe I was too harsh??  But then I read my review again and think, NO.

Originally posted 17 September 2012.

download (3)by Alethea Kontis

published 2012

This story starts well, with young Sunday making friends with a talking frog by a magical well and you think, Oh, this could be interesting.  But there are TOO MANY STORIES GOING ON IN THIS BOOK.  Every single sibling (and there are lots) has a story; the parents have a story; a couple of aunts have a story; the frog has a story; the king has a story.  The book is super confusing.  By the end of two chapters, we’ve heard about Sunday’s brother who got turned into a dog, her sister who danced TO DEATH, another sister who ran off with a pirate king and is busy robbing people and then sending gifts to her family, another sister who had to take refuge in a stranger’s cabin and then the stranger turned out to be royalty so she got married, and a whole passel of other relatives with complicated stories.

It’s really frustrating because there are so many good elements there, they just don’t come together cohesively.  AT ALL.

Plus: Sunday knows this frog for THREE DAYS and he’s the best friend she’s ever had and she doesn’t know how she’s going to live without him and his disappearance is enough to send her plummeting into depression.  Really?

EVERY SINGLE FAIRY TALE EVER WRITTEN was referenced in this book, and the main character of said fairy tale was probably closely related to Sunday.  This just added to the general chaos of the plot, as the story constantly hares off after some other random tale that has absolutely nothing to do with (what little there is of) the main plot.

This book is also randomly gruesome (the king apparently has been living for hundreds of years by marrying young women and then turning them into geese and EATING THEM!?) and just pointless, pointless, pointless.  It was dreadful; please do not waste your time.  I simply could not make heads or tales out of this book.

In the end, Sunday is upset  because the prince has been lying to her by not telling her that he was the frog so she runs away (and turns into a tree and he picks a branch from the tree not knowing that it’s her and then later the branch turns into her shoe and he’s all like, Haha good thing I only picked a small branch! Could have been awkward there!) and meanwhile, the prince is realizing that his dad is a cannibalistic magic-thief so blah blah blah he turns the king into a giant and the giant chased the prince across the clouds and they climb down the beanstalk that Sunday’s brother who is actually a fairy who has been adopted by their family when he was a baby planted with the beans he got in exchange for their last cow when Sunday was supposed to be watching him but she let him go to the marketplace by himself so she could go chat with her frog ANYWAY the prince climbs down the beanstalk and THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED by this giant and one of the fairy godmothers and Sunday is POUTING because the prince hasn’t come back to apologize!?

Trix rejoined her [Sunday] at the base of the tree with bow and arrows in hand and the rest of the family in tow, all in dressing gowns, save Aunt Joy, who must have been the one keeping the fire in the kitchen company with her confounded tea.  Mama and Friday were both swaddled in blankets.  Sunday should have been cold in  her ancient nightgown and bare feet, but she felt nothing.  She looked up at the beanstalk, at the resolute face of the man whose dreams she shared, and she felt nothing.  He had come, as she hadn’t dared hoped he would.

He had come, but he hadn’t come for her.


Then there’s more about the giant trying to get to the prince and wanting to eat all of them.  Then,

The prince looked as if he’d been beaten and then dragged a few miles down the road.  She yearned to ask him questions, but  now was not the time. She ached to tuck herself under his weary arm and give him comfort, but he stood apart from them and did not meet her eyes.  He had not come for her.

Maybe because the giant is on the beanstalk yelling down to his son, “I CAN TASTE YOUR BONES!” ????

I can’t even go on.  This book was so dreadful.  Sunday was shallow, selfish, and vain.  The prince was stupid and uninteresting.  The king was disgusting and bizarre.  The rest of Sunday’s family was complicated and very, very bad at communication.

DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.  If anything, my review is simpler and easier to understand than the actual book.  Seriously.

From the Archive: Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime

The only nonfiction book that I loved so much that I actually wrote to the author to tell him that his writing really impacted my life…  and he wrote back!  Ha!  Originally posted on tumblr 27 August 2012.


by Richard Pipes

published 1994

If you had told me three months ago that when I finally finished reading all 500+ pages of this book about the Bolshevik rise to power, I would actually be sad that it was over, I would not have believed you.  But, it’s true.  I really, really, really liked this book.  So much so that I found the author’s address so I can write him a letter, and I’m planning to actually purchase this book.  Seriously.

Where to even begin?  I read Mr. Pipes’s book The Three Whys of the Russian Revolution first; it was assigned reading for Tapestry.  I was really impressed by the author’s ability to write about complicated situations and theories with clarity. I am no expert on Russia or her history, yet Pipes kept my interest throughout the entire book.  More, he intrigued me and caused me to think about and reassess many of my views of Communism and Russia.

The book was brilliant all the way through.  The beginning is a little rough, as he is describing Russia’s civil war between the Reds and Whites.  There are a lot of names of people and places, and since they all look like Tzagoragphy, it gets a little complicated for English-speaking folks like myself.  But once I got through that bit, things settled out with the main players and places, and it was much easier to follow.

Pipes doesn’t really limit himself to just the history of what was happening in Russia.  My favorite chapter actually looks at the concept of totalitarianism: what it is and where it has existed in recent history.  Throughout the chapter, Pipes compares and contrasts the regimes in Russia, Germany, and Italy.  This is especially intriguing because Germany and Italy are always classified as fascist and put at one end of the political spectrum, while Russia is labeled communist and placed at the other.  Yet Pipes argues that these “governments” had far more in common than most people credit, and he argues the point very well.

In that chapter, too, Pipes talks a great deal simply about the steps to totalitarianism, and how Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini all worked within and through their legal political systems to gain control.  Fear, Pipes tells us, is the totalitarian’s best friend.  Each of those three regimes chose a scapegoat (capitalists or Jews for example) and then built up fear of that group, until the population was willing to do whatever it took to protect themselves from this threat.  Except there wasn’t really a threat and there wasn’t really a need for protection–but that realization came too late; power had already been given up by the people.

So I don’t know, it was just a lot of food for thought, looking at our government and the many wolves to which they point.  Are the wolves real, or are they merely shadows being used as excuses to take more and more control of our lives?

Anyway, I couldn’t believe how easily this book read.  So many books of this weight are written specifically for people who are already neck-deep in studying the topic, and thus are almost impossible for a newbie to the situation to understand.  Example: I also checked out a book on Mussolini’s Italy.  I gave it up after the first four or five chapters.  The author assumed that I already understood exactly what was going on in Italy and who was in charge and why and how they got there.  Pipes, on the other hand, manages to explain the background thoroughly but not overly, making the rest of what he has to say meaningful, relevant, and interesting.

If you ever have to do any studying of Russia from the point of the Revolution to Lenin’s death, I strongly recommend this book.  If you don’t feel like reading all 512 pages, at least read chapter five, on totalitarianism, and the last chapter, which is a summary of the rest of the book.

This is one of the few non-fiction books that I’ve read lately that I see myself reading again in the future.

Rearview Mirror: October 2015


Mountwood Park east of Parkersburg, WV – absolutely delightful place to hike!

October is always a busy month.  There’s the county fair (which was especially important during my 4-H years!) and my birthday, plus the usual fall activities of tucking in the garden and battening down the hatches in preparation for the long (long long long) winter months that plague Ohio.  We also spent a few days in West Virginia, hiking and exploring.  Always plenty of adventures to be had!

But there is always time for reading!  I am still plowing my way through Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, which I’m actually enjoying more as the series progresses.  Dragonsdawn was especially engaging.  I also love the way that McCaffrey will write more than one book that covers the same time period.  I actually love hearing the same story from multiple perspectives.

For some reason, I’ve been first in line on the library hold list for the next of Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series for almost a month, but still haven’t received it??  So I will actually be starting a new mystery series in November, and if the next Brunetti books ever makes an appearance, I’ll jump back into those.  I’m just not enamored with them enough to buy the next book, which I sometimes do on those rare occasions that the library lets me down.

I only have one Jim Kjlegaard book left to read from my personal collection, although I have added some of his other books, not currently owned by me, to the TBR, so they may crop up later.  I’m still working my way through all the books that I own (this will take a few years); we have a few Konigsburg books coming up, and then will hit some Dick King-Smith.  His books are short, humorous, and intelligent, so I’m really looking forward to blazing through those.


Bayern books – so much love!

My birthday was this month, too!  My sister purchased all four of Shannon Hale’s Bayern books (used) in my favorite edition – SO HAPPY!  Now I’m trying to decide what to do with my birthday money – buy a few nice sweaters for work or…  books!?  (Guess which one it’s going to be…)

Favorite October Read

//published 2013//

Really, really loved this read!

I think I’m going to go with The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness.  Even though I didn’t completely understand that book, it has really stuck with me, and has left me wanting to read it again.

Most Disappointing October Read

Probably Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels.  I was really looking forward to reading this book because I have enjoyed some of her other mysteries so much (especially the Amelia Peabody mysteries, which she wrote as Elizabeth Peters), but this book felt just a little too ranty for me to really enjoy it.

Other October Reads:

  • A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon (Commissario Guido Brunetti #7) – solid outing, and enough to make me want to give the next book a try, if the library ever decides I can have it.
  • How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year by Cameron Dokey – a bit silly, but still a lot of fun.  This book also made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions, so that is always a bonus.
  • A Nose for Trouble by Jim Kjelgaard – a decent read, but not my favorite Kjelgaard.
  • Nerilka’s Story by Anne McCaffrey – much shorter than her other novels so far, and super fun to get a different perspective on the major events from Moreta.  
  • Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey – I love reading background for stories (am I weird?!), and was completely enamored with this trip back to the beginning of Pern’s history.  This book was actually probably my second-favorite read for the month.
  • The Luck of the Bodkins by P.G. Wodehouse – while not my favorite Wodehouse, this one still had some classic moments and plenty of humor.

Other October Posts:

So for some reason I was inspired to tool through my original book blog, which I started over on tumblr at the end of 2011.  Most of my early reviews were kind of pathetic, like maybe a paragraph or two (have I gotten better at reviewing, or just more rambly??), but it’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane.  Looking through my older posts inspired me to add some books to the TBR as rereads, and also to post some reviews from the archive.  I have a few more archive posts queued up, but because so many of my older reviews weren’t that great, there are only a few left to go!  At some point, I may start reposting a few reviews from this blog now and then as well.

This month, I posted five archival posts:

  • George, Nicolas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter – this was my first-ever online book review, and still one of my all-time favorite nonfiction reads. If you are looking for a big picture look at how things came together to lead up to World War I, this book is highly recommended.  Completely engaging, organized, intelligent but easy to understand, it is an all-around brilliant book.  I absolutely loved discovering how all the important political players were connected to one another, and there was definitely a period of time where I was so immersed in this book that I felt almost like this was the current news!
  • Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse – My first Wodehouse review ever, back on February 7, 2012, is just as incoherently in love with Wodehouse as any of my current ones.  This particular review was actually more of an excuse to post an entire passage of Wodehouse’s foreword on the importance of early 20th century authors possessing three long names!
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell – A lot of so-called “classics” aren’t at all my style, but Orwell’s writing in this book is absolutely brilliant, and eerily applicable.
  • A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson – It was a little awkward, because after I queued this post, someone else recommend Ibbotson’s works to me.  I actually hated A Company of Swans, and this was one of my first really ranty reviews.  But maybe I should give her another try??
  • Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh – When I was really studying the early 1900’s, I read Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of Saint Louis, which was strangely engaging reading (but apparently I never reviewed it??  I’m positive I did!  I just can’t find it!).  This book, written by his wife, is much (MUCH) shorter, and I loved every page.  This is gentle, calming, inspiring writing that, for  me, captures beautifully the importance of femininity, strength, solitude, and balance.

My first edition copy of this book gives me an unreasonable amount of joy.

When I was looking for all those archives, I also found a bunch of quotes.  My favorite is probably from Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster:

It isn’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh–I think that requires spirit.

Random Fun:

  • 19367226

    This book isn’t by Agatha Christie! Why is Agatha Christie’s name prominently displayed at the top!? So that Sophie Hannah can trick people into buying her book! BOO HISS!

    Rant first:  I stumbled again across a copy of The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, and felt myself again being filled with rage that she would dare – DARE – to put Agatha Christie’s name in huge letters across the top of the cover.  Just because you’ve stolen someone’s main character doesn’t give you the right to act as though one of the greatest mystery writers of all time wrote YOUR book!  Honestly.  The nerve!  I was also pretty confident that I remembered FictionFan ranting about this book when she reviewed it – and I was right!

  • Speaking of FictionFan – she published the first chapter of her new domestic noir novel on her blog – I believe it is going to be absolutely brilliant – that type of gritty book that exposes the daily drudgery of the modern woman for what it really is.
  • I loved Gemma’s thoughts on buying books, and what the books we own say about us.  Her statement that her “to-buy” list is “almost an attempt to solidify the experience of reading that book, of enjoying that book. It’s a symbol that I love this book”  – is spot on for me as well.  I also do almost all of my reading from library books. But the ones I love go on the wishlist and get purchased when the funds appear!
  • Nicole had a similar conversation as well, and about how the temptation to purchase ebooks instead of physical ones is high, because ebooks are such a bargain – and take up less space! – despite the fact that they just aren’t the same as actual physical book.
  • I completely agreed with FictionFan (again…  really, I do disagree with her sometimes!) about the ridiculousness of editing chunks out of modern reprints of classic books – especially without any indication that you are reading an edited version and not what the author actually wrote!
  • Sophie compared book titles to baby names, and admitted that she judges books by their titles!

Added to the TBR:

Well, I added nothing to the TBR this month!


Seriously, per usual, I added way more than I possibly have room to mention, but here are a few that I added thanks to fabulous book reviews around WordPress!

  • Bibliobeth said that Night Film was thoroughly engrossing despite its length – I love really involved mysteries, actually, so I’m pretty stoked.
  • Reading, Writing and Riesling usually adds about 79 books to my TBR every month.  This month, I was especially drawn to her description of Night Owls – how am I supposed to resist a book that is “Beautifully written; engaging prose, loveable characters that speak to the principals of acceptance, diversity and individuality and a narrative that is engaging, that flows effortlessly” !??!?!  Answer:  I can’t!
  • Both Sophie and The Literary Sisters recommended the lengthily titled The Girl Who Circumnavigated the World in a Ship of Her Own Making, a book I’ve had my eye on anyway.  I love children’s fantasy, and also love the name September!
  • Another double recommendation was The Girl With No Past, which both CleopatraLovesBooks and ChrissiReads felt was a strong psychological thriller.  I haven’t had any good thrillers pop up lately, so hopefully adding more to the TBR will increase the odds!
  • Cleo also recommended 24 Hours as a page-turner that kept her completely engaged.
  • Cheryl at Tales of the Marvelous recommended Tom’s Midnight Garden as a “very British, very charming classic fantasy.” Her description put me in mind of E. Nesbit, a beloved favorite, so I think I will have to give this one a try.
  • Sometimes I like to mix it up with what kids are (or at least should be) reading these days, and Lynette’s description of North of Nowhere sounds like a great middle school read.
  • Since Anna over at Books for the Trees started her review of The Night Clock with a lot of capital letters and feels, it sounded like the fantasy read should go on the list!

Hope everyone else had a lovely October and are ready for November.  We’re getting back into the cozy reading months, so I’m pretty stoked about that.  Happy reading!!

The Luck of the Bodkins // by P.G. Wodehouse


//published 1935//

It is possible that my favorite part of any Wodehouse book is the first sentence.  I love the way that Wodehouse’s genius comes through from that very first moment, already completely hooking me and drawing me into his next romp.

Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.

I have blathered on a length about my love for Wodehouse in earlier posts.  He’s brilliant, and everyone should read his works, no matter what your usual fare is.  While The Luck of the Bodkins wasn’t my favorite Wodehouse (honestly, Albert Peasemarch was driving me crazy), it was still great fun, and an easy 4/5.