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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Good Premise, Disappointing Conclusion


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.

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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.

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