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Monday, January 13, 2020

Left Hand by Le Guin

Title: The Left Hand of Darkness


Author: Ursula K. Le Guin (American, 1929-2018)
Originally published: 1969
Page count: 300


Dates read: 1/3/2020-1/12/2020
2020 book goal progress: 1 out of 20
Month category: January - Winter (Cold / Dark)
Back to the Classics category: 
Classic by a Women Author


Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
Left Hand tells the story of a lone human emissary's mission to Winter, an unknown alien world whose inhabitants can change their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters.

First sentence(s):
"I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling."

Favorite quotes:
"You're not a traitor, you've merely been the tool of one. I don't punish tools. They do harm only the hands of bad workmen."

"When action grows unprofitable, gather information;
when information grows unprofitable, sleep."

"You don't see yet why we perfected and practice Foretelling? To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question."

"It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 7.6 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 8
Atmosphere   - 10
Writing Style - 7
Plot                - 7
Intrigue          - 8
Logic             - 6
Enjoyment     - 9
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

Review:
I have mixed feelings about this book. I had heard great things about it and really liked the first 3 books in the series (Worlds of Exile and Illusion). I put this book in the winter category because I discovered it was set on a cold and snowy planet - I didn't know the planet was actually called Winter! I had initially planned to read this for LGBT Pride Month because the natives' gender and sexuality are very different from ours (more on that soon). I was expecting to be challenged in my views of sexuality and to have a 'hurrah' moment regarding gender equality - but it never happened.

I found a website about the book and it sums up the Gethenian sexuality more succinct than I probably could, so here's a section:

"The Gethenians have an interesting sexual cycle in which they are nonsexual for 22 days of the (26-day) month and only develop a sexual drive during kemmer, a period of heat. A Gethenian in kemmer must find a partner who is also in kemmer in order to have sex. To actually engage in intercourse, one of the two must develop a hormonal dominance, either toward male or female, after which the other assumes the opposite gender. Then the two can copulate. Unless the female of the pair becomes pregnant, after kemmer is over, the Gethenians return to their latent androgynous state. If the female does become pregnant she remains female through the gestation (and lactation) period, but returns to normal soon after the baby is born."

If you are interested in knowing more about it, the full article is linked here. The book has a whole chapter devoted to gender/sex(verb)/sexuality, but overall the topic is much more of an undertone of the book and not really expanded upon as I had expected and hoped. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

(Human observation about Gethenians)
"There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive. Any (Gethenian) can turn his(/her) hand to anything. This sounds very simple, but its psychological effects are incalculable. The fact that everyone between seventeen and thirty-five or so is liable to be 'tied down to childbearing,' implies that no one is quite so thoroughly 'tied down' here as women, elsewhere, are likely to be - psychologically or physically. Burden and privilege are shared out pretty equally; everybody has the same risk to run or choice to make. Therefore nobody here is quite so free as a male anywhere else."

(Gethenian asks a human)
"'Tell me, how does the other sex of your race differ from yours? Do they differ much from your sex in mind behavior? Are they like a different species?'
'No. Yes. No, of course not, not really. But the difference is very important. I suppose the most important thing, the heaviest single factor in one's life, is whether one's born male or female. In most societies, it determines one's expectations, activities, outlook, ethics, manners - almost everything. Vocabulary. Semiotic usages. Even food. It's extremely hard to separate the innate differences from learned ones. Even where women participate equally with men in society, they still, after all, do all the childbearing, and so most of the child-rearing.'
'Equality is not the general rule, then?'"
(The human basically says, "I don't know" and the subject is dropped.)

What the book seemed to be more about was the potential of war, various government types (a sort of monarchy vs. a sort of communism), and patriotism. Here are some of my favorite quotes on those topics:

"One of the most dangerous fallacies is the implication that civilization, being artificial, is unnatural: that it is the opposite of primitiveness. Of course, progress is one of growth, and primitiveness and civilization are degrees of the same thing. If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of those two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both."

"Now (the nation) Karhide was to pull herself together and build up a unified and efficient centralized state; and the way to make her do it was not by sparking her pride, or building up her trade, or improving her roads, farms, colleges, and so on; none of that. They were after something surer, the sure, quick, and lasting way to make people into a nation: war."

"How does one hate a country, or love one? I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession. Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate."

"I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, how that yearning loyalty and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?"

OK... sorry about all the quotes, but the book will always say it better than I could in a review. The book also had a more mystical aspect to it with Mindspeech (telepathy), Foretelling (prophecy), and Dothe (a trance-like state that gives a person prolonged super-strength). There's also a psychosocial aspect that has to do with the importance of personal pride and how it (almost literally) grows and shrinks - which I never fully understood.

I couldn't get lost in the book because I kept trying to apply the different topics to today. Which is fine - I like it when books do that - but it was too much. She tried to cover too much ground in this book and everything felt very shallow. I wish she had picked just 1 topic and really delved deep into it. There was so much potential. It was so close to being incredible - it just fell short for me. I also was not a huge fan of the main character. I wish we could have gotten the whole story from Estraven (the secondary character) instead. He was better developed and we were left with A LOT of questions regarding him.

(Not a spoiler) One last thing - for those who are curious about what the left hand of darkness is (and haven't guessed it): Light is the Left Hand of Darkness.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Ursula K. Le Guin have the last words:

"In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we're done with it, we may find - if it's a good novel - that we're a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little."

Friday, January 3, 2020

20 Books to Read in 2020!

I'm going to do the Back to Classics challenge again this year! I wasn't sure the challenge was going to happen because the person who hosts it hesitated to do it last year and she hasn't posted a book review to her blog in over 7 months - but she's posted the categories for 2020!

For those not familiar with the challenge: There are 12 categories (which are meant to be filled with 12 different books). In order to qualify as a classic, the book has to have been published (or written) 50+ years ago, so 1970 or older. There are several other minor rules (like having to read all the books in 2020), which you can read at the link above. If you are interested in joining the challenge, the deadline is in March. I'd love for others to join me in doing this!

Every year I do the challenge, I add a second challenge on top of it. This year, I came up with a monthly category in addition to the 12 categories for the Back to the Classics challenge. The challenge is not to read 24 books but to read 12 books and that each book would fit 2 categories - one from the Classics and one from the Months. Oh - and, just like the past 2 years, I want to read at least 1 play!

But...that's 12 books and the blog title says 20 books?! You are absolutely right, how observant of you! The other 8 books will be from my TBR 'shelf.' The books are not on a physical shelf but are ones I've been wanting to read for a while. I haven't read them yet because they are not over 50 years old - so they couldn't be read as part of the classic challenge. That being said, the books from the TBR shelf are not going to be part of the classic challenge and there is no stipulation as to when they were published.

NOTE: As I read the books, I will link my reviews to the titles listed below.

Back to the Classics

January - Winter (Cold / Dark) 
-Classic by a Women Author
Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
by Ursula K. Le Guin (American, 1929-2018)

February - Black History Month
-Classic by a Person of Color
The Garies and Their Friends (1857)
by Frank J Webb (African-American, 1828-1894)

March - Women’s History Month
-19th Century Classic (Published in the 1800s)
Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
by Anne Bronte (English, 1820-1849)

April - Easter / Religion 
-Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title
Doctor Faustus (1592)
by Christopher Marlowe (English, 1564-1593)

May - Spring (New Beginnings / Children)
-Classic in Translation
Mio, My Son (1956)
by Astrid Lindgren (Swedish, 1907-2002)

June - LGBT Pride Month
-Genre Classic (Science-Fiction)
Babel-17 (1966)
by Samuel R. Delany (African-American, 1942- )

July - American / Patriotic 
-Classic Adaptation
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
by Mark Twain (American, 1835-1910)

August - Summer (Travel / Sun) 
-Classic with Nature in the Title
Treasure Island (1883)
by Robert Louis Stevenson (Scottish, 1850-1894)

September - Fall (School / Teachers) 
-Classic with a Place in the Title
Villette (1853)
by Charlotte Bronte (English, 1816-1855)

October - Halloween / Horror
-Abandoned Classic
Dracula (1897)
by Bram Stoker (Irish, 1847-1912)

November - Thanksgiving / Family
-Classic About a Family
The Whole Family (1908)
A collaboration of 12 authors led by:
William Dean Howells (American, 1837-1920) and
Elizabeth Jordan (American, 1865-1947)

December - Christmas / Santa
-20th Century Classic (Published 1900-1970)
The Father Christmas Letters (1920-1942)
by JRR Tolkien (English, 1892-1973)

EDIT: I switched the Classic categories Between Doctor Faustus and Huck Finn from what I originally chose. I did this because it seemed to be cheating to use a play as an 'adaptation.' Also, there are many movies of Huck Finn that I'd be interested in watching. Since they both have a person's name in the title, the switch worked no problem.

TBR Shelf

Tamora Pierce (American, 1954- ) - Circle Universe
Sandry's Book - The Magic in the Weaving (1997) – Circle of Magic #1
Tris's Book - The Power in the Storm (1998) – Circle of Magic #2
Daja's Book - The Fire in the Forging (1998) – Circle of Magic #3
Briar's Book - The Healing in the Vine (1999) – Circle of Magic #4

Tamora Pierce was one of my favorite authors growing up and, for a long time, I've wanted to read all the books in both the Circle Universe (11 books and counting) and the Tortall Universe (20 books and counting). My hope is that I will accomplish that over the next several years.

Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- ) - Valdemar Universe
Exile's Honor (2002) - Prequel 1
Exile's Valor (2003) - Prequel 2

I have only read the Arrows of the Queen trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, but those books I've reread more times than any other. Similar to Pierce, I've always wanted to read other books by Lackey. I hope to read all books in the Valdemar Universe (36 books and counting - not including the 13+ anthologies) in the next several years. Eventually, I might read some of the multitudes of books she's written outside of the Valdemar Universe, but, for now, that's where I'm focusing this long-term goal.

Margaret Atwood (Canadian, 1939- )
The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
The Testaments (2019) - Sequel

I have wanted to read The Handmaid's Tale for a while now. I really like dystopian novels and there are some aspects of this novel that are intriguing to me. There are also some parts that seem to challenge my views and I'm a little scared of the book. I'm finally going to put my foot down and read it this year. If I like it, I'll read the sequel - and probably watch the show.

Those are my 20 books I plan to read in 2020! There may be some changes along the way, but that's OK. If I end up finishing all 20 before the year is over, then I will start reading books on my literal TBR shelf (because I do actually have one). I look forward to experiencing this year (partly) through books! I hope you are able to read some too - whether fiction or non-fiction - classic or contemporary - book or ebook or audiobook. Happy New Year and happy reading!

Friday, December 20, 2019

2019 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up!

I participated in the Back to the Classics Challenge again this year! I posted at least 1 entry for all 12 categories - which means I get 3 entries into the drawing!

In the Challenge, there are 12 categories which are to be filled with different books written 50+ years ago. I actually had a list of 41 books to read this year... and I read 36.5 books! My final list has some substitutions from my original list. I also started a book that decided to not finish because I didn't like it (hence the .5 in my count). I honestly didn't think I would read all the books on my list, but I got much further than I expected!

Below are the links to all my reviews from this year. A green check means I finished reading it, a white box means it was on the original list but I didn't get to it, and the red X is the book I started but didn't finish.

1. 19th Century Classic. 
✅-Agnes Grey (1847) by Anne Bronte
-The Last Man (1826) by Mary Shelley instead I read:
✅-Dickens at Christmas (1835-1854) - Collection of 9 Christmas short stories

2. 20th Century Classic.
✅✅✅-Worlds of Exile and Illusion Trilogy (1966-1967) by Ursula K. Le Guin
          *HONORABLE MENTION
✅✅✅-The Space Trilogy (1938-1945) by CS Lewis
          *HONORABLE MENTION

3. Classic by a Female Author.
✅-Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Bronte
          **FAVORITE - rating: 9.6 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
✅-Lud-in-the-Mist (1926) by Hope Mirrlees

4. Classic in Translation.
☐-Heidi (1880) by Johanna Spyri
✅-We (1921) by Yevgeny Zamyatin

5. Classic Comedy.
✅-The Autobiography of Methuselah (1909) by John Kendrick Bangs
❌-Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (1889) by Jerome K. Jerome
          *DISHONORABLE MENTION (never finished)

6. Classic Tragedy. 
✅-Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronte
          **LEAST favorite - rating: 3.9 - ⭐⭐
☐-1984 (1949) by George Orwell

7. Very Long Classic. 500+ pages
✅-Don Quixote (1615) by Miguel de Cervantes
-Middlemarch (1871) by George Eliot instead I read:
✅-The One Year Chronological Bible (~600BC-100AD) - page count: 1,441
          -New Living Translation (written in Hebrew and Koine Greek)
-I will not be posting an actual blog post review on this one. The Bible is a library in itself and a multitude of books have been written about each individual book. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, this is still an extremely influential book and I think everyone should read it through at least once in their lives. It was interesting to read it chronologically - you realize how much of the Bible actually repeats itself!

8. Classic Novella. under 250 pages
✅✅✅-The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1945-1948) by Astrid Lindgren
✅✅✅✅✅-Dickens at Christmas (1843-1848) - 5 'Christmas books'
          **A Christmas Carol (1843) FAVORITE - ranking: 9.4 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

9. Classic From the Americas or Caribbean. Classic set there, or author from there.
☐-Christy (1967) by Catherine Marshall
✅✅-The Diaries of Adam and Eve (1906) by Mark Twain

10. Classic From Africa, Asia, Oceania, or Australia. Classic set there, or author from there.
-Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie instead I read and performed in a play adaptation of A Murder is Announced by Christie. (see category 12)
✅-The Plague (1947) by Albert Camus

11. Classic From a Place You've Lived. Read locally! Any classic set in a city, county, state,
     or country in which you've lived, or by a local author. (I live in MA, USA.)
☐-Work: A Story of Experience (1873) by Louisa May Alcott
✅-The Bostonians (1886) by Henry James
          **LEAST favorite - rating: 3.6 - ⭐⭐

12. Classic Play.
✅✅✅✅-Four Shakespeare Comedies (~1590-1601)
✅✅✅✅-Everyman and Other Miracle and Morality Plays (~1350s-1510s)
✅-A Murder is Announced (1950) by Agatha Christie

Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

Title: Lud-in-the-Mist

Author: Hope Mirrlees (British, 1887-1978)
Originally published: 1926
Page count: 264



Dates read: 11/30/19-12/20/19
2019 book goal progress: 36 out of 41
Back to the Classics category:
Classic by a Female Author



Read my other book reviews for the challenge HERE.


Description on back of book:
Lud-in-the-Mist is a prosperous country town situated where two rivers meet: the Dawl and the Dapple. The Dapple springs from the land of Faerie, and is a great trial to Lud, which rejects anything 'other,' preferring to believe only in what is known, what is solid. Nathaniel Chanticleer, a dreamy, melancholy man, is deliberately ignoring a vital part of his own past; a secret he refuses even to acknowledge. But with the disappearance of his daughter, and long-overdue desire to protect his son, he realizes Lud is changing - and something must be done.

First sentence:
"The free state of Dorimare was a very small country, but, seeing that it was bounded on the south by the sea and on the north and east by mountains, while its center consisted of a rich plain, watered by two rivers, a considerable variety of scenery and vegetation was to be found within its borders."

Favorite quotes:
"Again, fairy was delusion, so was the law. At any rate, it was a sort of magic, molding reality into any shape it chose. But, whereas fairy magic and delusion were for the cozening and robbing of man, the magic of the law was to his intention and for his welfare."

"A class struggling to assert itself, to discover its true shape, which lies hidden, as does the statue in the marble, in the hard, resisting material of life itself, must, in the nature of things, be different from that same class when chisel and mallet have been laid aside, and it has actually become what it had so long been struggling to be."

"Reason, I know, is only a drug and, as such, its effects are never permanent. But, like the juice of the poppy, it often gives a temporary relief."

"I am not given to harboring foul suspicions without cause. But a great deal of mischief is sometimes done by not facing facts."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 5.9 - ⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 7
Atmosphere   - 8
Writing Style - 7
Plot                - 6
Intrigue          - 4
Logic             - 4
Enjoyment     - 5
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

Review:
For what this book is, it's really good. Unfortunately, it wasn't what I was expecting, so I was pretty disappointed. I thought it was going to be a high fantasy with faeries, elves, fauns, and magic... but all that is really just alluded to and never seen. This story was more of a mystery than a fantasy. It's more about delusions and figuring out what the truth is - and it has this really weird dream-like sequence in the end.

It was as if it was trying to be an adult version of a children's fairytale - but it failed at being either. The story was very straightforward and predictable (except for the weird dream at the end) - it was boring to me and I wouldn't really consider it an adult story. At the same time, the phrasing of many sentences was strange and the vocabulary was difficult - I would consider this pretty advanced for a children's story. I also think it was supposed to be an allegory - but it went over my head. Overall, the novel just fell flat for me.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Hope Mirrless have the last words:

"There's no clock like the sun and no calendar like the stars. And why? Because it gets one used to the look of Time. There's no bogey from over the hills that scares one like Time. But when one's been used to seeing him naked, as it were, instead of shut up in a clock, one learns that he is as quiet and peaceful as an old ox dragging the plow. And to watch Time teaches one to sing."

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A Murder is Announced (play adaptation) by Agatha Christie

Title: A Murder is Announced (play adaptation)

Author: Agatha Christie (English, 1890-1976)
Adapted by: Leslie Darbon (Brittish, ?-?)

Originally published:  1950 (play adapted in 1977)
Page count: 102

Dates read: end of 8/19 through the end of 10/19 -
then our lines had to be memorized
2019 book goal progress: 35 out of 41
Back to the Classics category: Classic Play


Read my other book reviews for the challenge HERE.


Description on back of book:
An announcement in the local paper states the time and place when a murder is to occur in Miss Blacklock's Victorian house. The victim is not one of the house's several occupants, but an unexpected and unknown visitor. What follows is a classic Christie puzzle of mixed motives, concealed identities, a second death, a determined Inspector grimly following the twists and turns, and Miss Marple on hand to provide the final solution at some risk to herself in a dramatic confrontation just before the final curtain.

First line(s):
MISS BLACKLOCK (MB): Good-bye.
JULIA (J): You really do make too much fuss of her, Aunt Letty...
MB: Well, Phillipa's been through rather a lot, Julia. And, tell me, what's wrong with trying to make life a bit more pleasant?
J: Nothing - I suppose...
MB: It's such a little thing - waving good-bye. But it helps. I'd do the same for you.

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 8.7 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 9
Atmosphere   - 8
Writing Style - 8
Plot                - 9
Intrigue          - 10
Logic             - 7
Enjoyment     - 10
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

Review:
I read this through and then read it again... and again and again... until I had whole portions of it memorized. I mean... that is how acting is supposed to work anyway! I played Phillipa Haymes and had a great time with the rest of the cast. I recently moved, so it was nice to meet new people at a community theater. I also hadn't been in a play for 2 years, so it was a blast getting back on stage again! Overall, I think the show is great. Though I haven't read Christie's original book it's made me want to - even though I know who did it!

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Agatha Christia have the last words:

(Note: This is my favorite line in the play. It was probably added to the play by Leslie Darbon and not in Agatha Christie's original novel. It happens at the very end of the play - but doesn't give anything away.)

EDMUND (a struggling writer): I'm convinced somewhere in all this there is a fascinating novel to be written and if I don't write it, someone else will.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

All Book Reviews Relating to Christmas!

This page includes links to all the Christmas book reviews I have posted to this blog. This list is small right now, but I hope to see it grow in the next couple of years! I have so many I want to read and re-read!

It is broken into three categories: Bible, Picture Books, and... Non-Picture Books. Where possible, each category is in alphabetical order by the author's last name, then by order of publication.

Nativity Story in the Bible
Full story in the Bible:
Luke 1:1-2:52
Matthew 1:1-2:23

Shortened story from the Bible:
Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-21; 2:39-40 
Matthew 1:18-2:23



Christmas Picture Books:
-My four favorite Nativity-Centered Picture Books



Christmas Short Stories, Novellas, Novels, Plays, Ect...
Charles Dickens (English, 1812-1870)
-Dickens at Christmas (1835-1854)
     -A Christmas Carol (1843)
     -The Chimes (1844)
     -The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
     -The Battle of Life (1846)
     -The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848)
     -Mini-Reviews of the Christmas Short Stories (1835-1854)

Dickens at Christmas


Title: Dickens at Christmas
Includes: Five Christmas Books and
Collection of 9 Christmas Short Stories

Author: Charles Dickens (English, 1812-1870)
Originally published:  1835-1854
Page count: Five books: 85; 88; 91; 88; 99
Nine short stories: 105 total (~5-20 pages each)

Dates read: 7/8/19-12/6/19
Back to the Classics category: 
Five books: Classic Novella (under 250 pages)
Nine short stories: 19th Century Classic


Read my other book reviews for the challenge HERE.


Many people are familiar with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - but did you know he actually wrote four other Christmas books and over 20 Christmas short stories?! Well, this wonderful book called Dickens at Christmas collects all five of his Christmas books and nine of his Christmas short stories. An overall review of the Christmas books and an overall review of Dickens at Christmas are included below in this blog post. For more in-depth reviews of the Christmas books and mini-reviews of the nine short stories, you can access them here:
     -A Christmas Carol (1843)
     -The Chimes (1844)
     -The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
     -The Battle of Life (1846)
     -The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848)
     -Mini-Reviews of the Christmas Short Stories (1835-1854)

Overall Review the Five Christmas Books:
A Christmas Carol is by far his most well know Christmas story and it very much deserves that. None of the other books (which are all really novellas) are quite like his first. The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain is also a great tale and is the only other ACTUAL Christmas story. It's blatantly around Christmas-time AND has a personified ghost - usually referred to as a phantom. The main character is also quite similar to the well-known Mr. Scrooge.

The Chimes is a good story but is actually during New Year's Eve/New Year's. It does have a multitude of ghosts (referred to as goblins), but they're not personified like in the two stories mentioned above. The Cricket on the Hearth is an adorable story about love and marriage - but it happens at the end of January and has no connection to Christmas. Crickets are referred to as spirits and symbols of luck, but there are no ghosts in this story.

The Battle of Life was a horrible story that I found confusing. It had a short scene at Christmas, but it wasn't about Christmas at all. It also didn't have any ghosts. This is one to just pass on and read some of Dickens' other wonderful writings instead.

Overall Review of Dickens at Christmas:
If you haven't already, I would highly suggest reading A Christmas Carol - and, even if you have, to read it again. I would also suggest reading all of the other Christmas Books except for The Battle of Life. Most of the short stories are good too. My favorite being "The Story of the Goblin who Stole a Sexton" and my least favorite being "A Christmas Tree." I also enjoyed "The Child's Story," even though it isn't about Christmas.

That was what surprised most reading through this collection of 14 stories - only half of the tales are really about Christmas. The other half had little or nothing to do with Christmas. That was a big disappointment - even if they were good stories on their own.

Nonetheless, Charles Dickens is an INCREDIBLE writer. I greatly look forward to reading more of his books. I had read A Christmas Carol while in college (over 5 years ago) and Oliver Twist when I was in fifth or sixth grade - so I didn't have much to go on to know what to expect from his writing. He writes so smoothly and each sentence seems perfectly crafted - it's almost like reading poetry. Every story has a moral purpose, which just feels good to me. I just couldn't help but smile while reading all these stories.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Charles Dickens have the last words:

"Christmas comes but once a year, which is unhappily true, for when it begins to stay with us the whole year round we shall make this earth a very different place."
-"The Seven Poor Travellers"