Tag Archive for: 3 Stars

Review: The Good SisterTitle: The Good Sister
Author: Sally Hepworth
Genre(s): Romance, Thriller
Pages: 309 (Hardcover)
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Steaminess: 2 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights, and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be ... dangerous.

My Thoughts

I was really excited to read THE GOOD SISTER because my IRL friend Jenny recommended it to our book club and I usually enjoy the same type of thrillers she does. We decided to read it as September’s book and I’m glad we did so I’d read it sooner rather than later.

I loved THE GOOD SISTER. It was a fantastic story that kept me reading until I was done with the book. I saw the big twist coming a mile away; it didn’t ruin the suspense or story for me, though, because I still wanted to know how everything would play out. I wasn’t disappointed.

I really liked the characters in THE GOOD SISTER. I liked that even though I guessed the twist, I still kept wondering if I was right. I also loved that a couple of the main characters were neurodivergent. I have sensory issues, not to the extent Fern does, though. I really connected with that aspect of Fern’s character.

Angry is just a pen name for sad…. In my experience, nine times out of ten if you are kind to the angry person, you will calm them down and find out what is really going on with them.

I would’ve given THE GOOD SISTER 4 stars, except near the end Hepworth perpetuated the stigma that people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are violent psychopaths. BPD’s misunderstood even among the psychological community. Those trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) understand BPD the most. I simply wish she had talked to a DBT-trained psychologist or someone who’s diagnosed with BPD before she used BPD as one of the reasons why the antagonist did what they did.

I don’t think cancelling someone is the right answer, though, because it takes away from what’s important—educating as many people as possible to help break the stigma surrounding BPD and other mental illness. Because of this, I’ll continue to read and, most likely, enjoy Hepworth’s novels.

Have you read THE GOOD SISTER? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for sexual assault, loss of a child, and loss of a parent.

There are spoilers for THE LAST BATTLE in this post.

The Last Battle: A Discussion

THE LAST BATTLE is the final book in the Narniad (in both published and chronological order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 a little over a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE LAST BATTLE back in 2007, I hated it. I gave it only one star. I’ve stated in previous discussion posts that the main reason I decided to participate in the Narniathon was because I wanted to see if my feelings for THE LAST BATTLE changed upon rereading it.

As I reread THE LAST BATTLE, I tried to keep an open mind. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed it much more this time around. I do still have a couple of problems with it, though. The first problem is with some of the allegory and the second is the same problematic language regarding the Calormenes that I noticed in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY.

I didn’t have a problem with all of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE. In fact, I truly enjoyed the allusion to Moses and the staff with the serpent on it as the characters saw or didn’t see what was really past the door in the stable. I also loved the allusions to the second coming of Christ and what’s written in Revelations regarding the wars, false Christs, and the coming of the Beast. The way Lewis tied them all together as a coherent story was phenomenal.

The part of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE I had a problem with is regarding Susan and Puzzle. I still don’t agree with how Lewis treated Susan nor do I think that she shouldn’t be “redeemed” when Puzzle, who imitated Aslan, was. I know Puzzle was tricked by Shift. However, before Puzzle agreed to go along with Shift, Puzzle actually said that he knew it was wrong to impersonate Aslan. To me, this means he went along willingly. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Puzzle was “redeemed;” I just think if he was, then Susan should’ve been as well as she only liked nylons, lipstick, and invitations more than Narnia.

By mixing a little truth with it they made their lie far stronger.

I thought the problematic language of the Calormenes in THE LAST BATTLE was far worse than what I read in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. Every time the dwarfs called a Calormene “Darkie,” I cringed. As I stated in my discussion post for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY, I try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. I also think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. Because of this language, though, I didn’t enjoy THE LAST BATTLE nearly as much as I could have.

I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of the Narniathon. I’m glad I decided to participate in it. I have a new found appreciation for the Narniad. Thanks, Chris, for hosting!

Have you read THE LAST BATTLE? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY in this post.

The Horse and His Boy: A Discussion

THE HORSE AND HIS BOY is the fifth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 on April 30. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY 14 years ago, I really loved this installment of the Narniad. During my reread, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first time I read it. I also feel like I don’t have as much to say about this book in general so I’ll focus on answering Chris’ questions instead of pointing out my own observations.

  1. THE HORSE AND HIS BOY has a distinctive ARABIAN NIGHTS feel which some have found problematic. Has this aspect, and its cultural or racial resonances, been an issue for you or not?

I did notice the problematic language and descriptions of the Calormen. I’m sure many readers pictured characters that look Arabic or Muslim in appearance because of Lewis’ descriptions. He may have, as Chris suggests in his post (link above) drawn inspiration directly from ARABIAN NIGHTS, which feels like cultural misappropriation.

While I think a book written like this today would be extremely inappropriate, I do try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. Yes, racism and cultural misappropriation was just as wrong in CS Lewis’ time as it is now. And, I think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. It’s the same reasoning I don’t think we should throw out Mark Twain’s books either. One of my least favorite books illustrates this principle perfectly:

Colored people don’t like LITTLE BLACK SAMBO. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.

FAHRENHEIT 451, Ray Bradbury

For this reason, just like I have done with Dune, I can acknowledge the cultural misappropriation for what it is AND help society do better by also supporting Muslim authors and authentic Muslim stories.

  1. Unlike the previous four titles, this book has the formerly young visitors to Narnia, the Pevensies, more as bit players than as protagonists. Have you found this a disappointment or did you happily adjust to the new points-of-view provided by Shasta, Aravis, and the others?

I was fine with reading the story from other POVs than the Pevensies. I’m not necessarily attached to them (maybe Lucy). I’m most attached to Aslan and some of the woodland creatures, like Reepicheep (too bad he’s only in like 20% of Narniad). If Aslan weren’t to show up, then I’d be disappointed.

  1. As a boy Lewis loved to imagine talking animals, and that love permeates all the chronicles, including here with Bree, Hwin and, of course, Aslan. How did you feel about the interplay between the young protagonists and their mounts? Did you spot the literary allusions? And how did you react to Rabadash’s punishment?

I really liked how Aslan shows up in this book. It’s one of the things I like about this book. It reminds me of what in Narnia, Christians may term as the “Holy Spirit.” I feel like Aslan manifests this way in Narnia often. Instead of simply telling the characters he’s there to guide them, he leads them through other means that they often don’t know about. He helps them very mysteriously. (See what I did there. )

I didn’t spot the literary allusions, I don’t think. I think this may be why I’m not sure how it relates to Rabadash’s punishment. As far as his punishment, it reminded me a bit of PINOCCHIO. Even without thinking of Pleasure Island, I thought his punishment was just.

To be quite honest, I’m not really looking forward to reading the last two books in the Narniad. They’re my least favorite of the seven books. Hopefully, I’ll feel differently this time around. I am trying to keep an open mind even if it’s not working very well. Anyway, THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW and the creation of Narnia is next.

Have you read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE SILVER CHAIR in this post.

The Silver Chair: A Discussion

THE SILVER CHAIR is the fourth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 I’m participating in on Thursday of last week. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

This is the only book in the Narniad that I remembered nothing from my previous read 14 years ago. Okay, I remembered that Eustace Scrubbs was one of the main characters, but that’s it. Other than that, I was basically reading this installment as if it were my first time again. I thought once I started rereading THE SILVER CHAIR, the story would come back to me–it didn’t.

I really liked THE SILVER CHAIR. It was a lot different than the previous three books, which I found kind of refreshing. I did get annoyed by the owls “tu-whoos” and Puddleglum’s negativity, but not enough to make me hate the story. There were also a couple of times I was frustrated because I understood what was happening a lot sooner than the characters did (e.g. Autumn feast, Rilian’s enchantment). I had to remind myself that these are children’s books so I wouldn’t get too mad, lol.

I thought the allegory was more subtle in THE SILVER CHAIR than in the previous installments of the Narniad until the end, anyway. Then the allegory is obvious when Aslan asks Eustace to pierce his paw with a thorn. Even though the imagery’s unmistakable, I thought how Lewis tied it in with Caspian’s death was beautiful. It’s my favorite ending so far in the series.

The more subtle parts of the allegory are the four signs that Aslan gives to Jill to follow so she and Eustace can find Prince Rilian. Aslan tells her to recite them when she wakes up in the morning and before she goes to sleep at night so she doesn’t forget them. Over on Chris’ blog, he commented:

I think Aslan’s insistence that Jill repeat the Four Signs rubric morning and night is deliberately redolent of saying prayers before and after sleep.

I agree that by having Jill recite the signs like Aslan asks, the signs are reminiscent of morning and nightly prayers. And, the fact that Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum don’t recognize the signs before they come upon them reminds me of the “signs of the times” that Christians look for as signals of Christ’s second coming. As a Christian, I’ve been brought up to believe the “signs of the times” can help me prepare and be ready for when Christ comes to reign again on the earth.

I also think, and I don’t think I’m alone, that there are many interpretations of the signs. Look at the book of Revelations, for example. Scholars and theologians can speculate what they think John the Revelator meant by what he wrote. And, I think we’re all going to be surprised as to what he meant by what he wrote when everything happens. (This is, of course, if you believe like I do that the book of Revelations is a book of things to come.)

I also thought of the signs in conjunction with following Christ’s commandments. Jill and Eustace do their best to follow the signs. They try to keep their minds from getting confused as Aslan warns. They, as Jill puts it, “muff it up” a few times. Aslan is gracious and forgiving and gives them many chances to follow the signs as Christ does with us. I believe as long as we’re trying to follow Christ and do good, He will give us as many chances as we need to follow Him and do as He asks.

I’m looking forward to reading THE HORSE AND HIS BOY this month. It’s one of my favorite installments in the Narniad.

Have you read THE SILVER CHAIR? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

Review: Keep MovingTitle: Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change
Author: Maggie Smith
Genre(s): Non-Fiction
Pages: 224 (Hardcover)
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Steaminess: 0 Flames

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Goodreads Synopsis

When Maggie Smith, the award-winning author of the viral poem Good Bones, started writing daily Twitter posts in the wake of her divorce, they unexpectedly caught fire. In this deeply moving book of quotes and essays, Maggie writes about new beginnings as opportunities for transformation. Like kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with gold, KEEP MOVING celebrates the beauty and strength on the other side of loss. This is a book for anyone who has gone through a difficult time and is wondering: What comes next?

My Thoughts

KEEP MOVING is my IRL book club’s pick for January. I picked it up from the library yesterday and I read it really quickly, in a few hours, as it’s mostly pages of affirmations.

Don’t wait for your life to magically come together–it’s your work to do. Every day, every moment, you are making your life from scratch. Today, take one step, however small, toward creating a life you can be proud of.

I liked a lot of the affirmations, like the one above, but my favorite parts of the book were the parts where Smith went into more detail, where she talked about her losses from losing her grandmother, two miscarriages, and divorce. Those were the times I felt a kinship toward her. Even if I hadn’t experienced loss quite the same way she had, I could still empathize with her and think of ways to apply her advice to my own life.

I really liked her perspective on things, especially when she talked about serotinous pine cones and how they only open and spread their seeds in the midst of fire. Or, how she likened trauma and loss to kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with gold. The ceramic piece is beautiful because of its brokenness instead of in spite of it.

I wasn’t sure I’d like KEEP MOVING, but I’m glad I read it. I gave KEEP MOVING 3 stars because the ratio between affirmations to the parts I actually wanted to read was too high. Otherwise, I would’ve given it 4 stars.

Have you read KEEP MOVING? If so, what did you think about it?