Review: The Rose and the Balloon: A Beauty and the Beast Story

The Rose and the Balloon: A Beauty and the Beast Story
The Rose and the Balloon: A Beauty and the Beast Story by Kirsten Fichter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a clever little book. Not too long, not too short. Yet profound in a simple and satisfying way.

This is the story of misunderstanding. It’s the tragedy of the prejudice of man. It’s the joy of his discovering mercy and forgiveness and changing his ways. It’s the story of loosing sight of beauty and discovering it again in the very simple things around us.

I really think this is a must read. While it has a definite fictional feel and a rather unrealistic (but very amusing!) line of humor, this book speaks of something deeper. Never read a book for the simple story written on the page. Always read it for the message about the truths of humanity (its faults and virtues). Only true, good novels contain such messages, and this delightful little story has succeeded in that height.

Very well done, Miss Fichter!

Ratings:
All categories get five. I find nothing to mention to the wary parents or reader.

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Review: Castles in the Clouds

Castles in the Clouds
Castles in the Clouds by Myra Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book.

I have a great admiration for Louisa May Alcott, her writing, and her fictional characters and Mrs. Johnson’s story and writing style reminded me of her. I didn’t want to set the book down from the moment I picked it up. Considering the fact that I’m writing this review almost exactly a month after reading the book, some of you may be eyeing me with suspicion, but I assure you that I am speaking the truth.

In fact, my not finding time until now to post this review only serves to prove that I haven’t had much time…yet I had time to read this book.

It’s been a while since I read the book, so I don’t remember all of the little details from the book, but there were a few things I wanted to mention.

First, I appreciated how Anson had actually health problems. They didn’t suddenly disappear and he didn’t regain his health miraculously during the book. It was very historically accurate in that sense, and I appreciated the unique approach. Following along with this, Anson cuts his hand in a scene and it’s cut pretty bad. When things like that happen, I always have a little question pop up in my mind, “Will the author remember their character xyz?” It’s almost a little test since I see authors forget such things (and I understand why!) so often. Mrs. Johnson remembered though, so I was impressed.

Second, while this story is aimed at more mature audiences (it made mention of more mature themes concerning romance and had quite a few kisses towards the end) I really admired how Mrs. Johnson presented these topics. Anson and Lark didn’t kiss until towards the end of the book, which I very much appreciated since I felt like they really knew each other at that point and had grown as a couple. Too many books these days have kissing before the characters even really seem to know each other. As to the more mature topics, I think that Mrs. Johnson did a beautiful job of presenting something that is good and beautiful in its true light. So many novels these days portray lust as “true love” and it makes it hard for readers to see beauty in love. Their idea of love has been marred and it injures their ability to give and receive actual, true love. Mrs. Johnson didn’t cringe away from such topics, she didn’t shy away from having her characters kiss, yet the way she present these things served as a wonderful example for good, pure love.

I applaud you, Mrs. Johnson, and I look forward to reading more of your books.

Ratings (# out of 5)
Romance: 4 (Because the mature topics make this book less appropriate for younger ages)
Violence: 4 (There are racists who threaten Anson’s school for teaching everyone despite the color of their skin, but nothing violent actually happens. Just a little tense. Anson cuts his hand.)
Language: 5 (I can’t remember any language.)
Substance Abuse: 5 (I can’t remember any substance abuse. Anson and his friend had a temperate, relaxing glass though.)

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Why so Judgemental?

If I stop judging other people, I free myself from being judged, and I can dance!

~Patti Digh

A while ago I was at work nearby some co-workers. On a table we were all standing near there was a magazine with a women on the front cover. The women, in my thoughts, looked beautiful. She was wearing make-up, but not too much. The magazine looked pretty old and I found myself liking how different it was from the shocking, disruptive magazines of this modern day.

As I was thinking this though, a women co-worker noticed the magazine on the table and looked at it. She recognized the woman on the front. Her reaction was not what I would have expected though. “Is that really her? Wow! She didn’t look as great back then.” And I had thought she looked beautiful. That only made me wonder how much more beautiful the women really could be.

But my co-workers words had bothered me.

I sat thinking later, wondering why the words really bothered me. What had made me stiffen at the woman’s language? Couldn’t she just have meant that the woman looked even more beautiful now, just as a compliment?

It finally dawned on me though. As I was standing there, noticing this magazine, I had in the back of mind wished ever so subtly that I looked as beautiful as that woman. It was so subtle I did not realize until later.

This realization caused another to unfold. I had not like the comment made by my co-worker because I had heard the slight spite, the slight triumph in her voice.

I realized: she triumphed that this other beautiful woman had faults. She displayed them to gratify her own feelings of inadequacy.

Women, how many times has your day been ruined by that judgemental look in another woman’s eyes? How many times have you ranted to someone about another person’s judgemental attitude towards you? How many times have you cried yourself to sleep because of an unkind word or look? How many times have you dragged yourself from depression? How many times have you been battered and bruised by simple looks, simple words that cut deep?

We have all experience it. If not many times, at least once. Maybe the looks or words don’t really bother you, but I know the majority of us are injured by them.

Here’s the thing though: we sit in our hurt, anger, and depression and we blame that girl who looked at us with such judgement, we blame the women who said that slightly rude thing, but we forget that we, yes, even we, fall into the trap of judging others.

I know I have done it myself! I will be the first to readily admit it here.

So when you start thinking, how dare she? Remember that you dared to. We don’t know where that women or girl came from. We don’t know what is happening in their lives. What we do know is what is happening in our own. We know that it hurts to be judged, that it hurts to be observed and dismissed with a haughty glance.

As women who realize the pain this causes, we should be the first to break the spell. We should be the first to shatter the chains that tie each women as injury is passed on and on.

Try smiling. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s not possible. Sometimes you’ve been hurt too much. But I guarantee that if you try as often as you can, you will change someone’s day. Maybe even your own. I have had it happen to me more often than I can count. I am having a horrible day and all I want to do is avoid this person nearby who just won’t understand or care, right?

But then they approach me. And they smile. And they look me straight in the eyes. Then something like a crippling casing falls off my heart. The hard lines on my face start to relax. After my encounter with them is over, I walk away.

Another person approaches me. This time I smile. Maybe not effortlessly, but it comes more easily since someone took the time to look at me without judging. To look at me and see me not the flaws they want to pick out to make themselves feel better in some round about way.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged”. (Luke 6:37) Right from the Bible, folks.

So…if I’m telling you that judging someone else means you will be judged…then it follows that if you love someone…

You will be loved.

Carpe Veritatem.

Therese May Signature

Review: Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales by Elisabeth Grace Foley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit that this book has been one of the cleverest collections of retellings I have ever read. Half the time I didn’t know what story was being retold, which added a sense of mystery. What fairy tale would this story retell? And then some of them I’m not even sure what story they retell. While that might seem a turn off to some, I actually enjoy not knowing. I think it shows that the writer(s) did a wonderful job writing a unique story, not just “retelling”. I applaud all these wonderfully talented authors!

 

The Mountain of the Wolf by Elisabeth Grace Foley

This was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but I couldn’t tell it was until the end of the story. Ms. Foley did a truly wonderful job giving her story a real life feel. It almost seemed as though I were out in the canyon with Rosa Jean, experiencing the heat, the dust, the work, etc. I didn’t feel like the era, time, and characters were forced into a Little Red Riding Hood plot, rather I felt that the story effortlessly resembled the story of Ms. Riding Hood. The characters, I felt, were well developed for such a short story. I was a little confused as to Rosa Jean’s motivations for bringing an outlaw to justice, but that may have been the fault of a distracted reader. Quincy. He’s a great character, one you will love getting to know.

 

She But Sleepeth by Rachel Heffington

This is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. While this story held more closely to a retelling feeling (with magic and obviously “evil stepmother” type characters), the story held so many unique twists and turns and feels. This story did confuse me a little bit with the concept…such as [if they buried a child, how did Maria end up in the future? How did they not know she was still alive if she didn’t truly die? (hide spoiler)] The ending was very unexpected and, for that reason, all the more heartrending. Definitely a good read!

 

Rumpled by J. Grace Pennington

May I just say: genius! I think this was (maybe…it’s hard to say) my favorite short story in this collection. This is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling set in a futuristic world. A girl who made simple AI (Artificial Intelligence) is married by the governor…to make complex AI. Problem is, her father exaggerated her skill, and she really has no idea what she’s doing. I won’t ruin the story for you because it is a wonderful web! It’s filled with trials, pain, inspiration, and love. This story is probably more mature in content then the other stories, so I would exercise a little parental caution before letting a child read it, but it really should be acceptable for teens since the mature content is presented in a good and respectful way.

 

Sweet Remembrance by Emily Ann Putzke

This is one story retelling I couldn’t figure out…until the end. I won’t ruin the story. This is a must read! I loved getting to know Kasia and Romek through Kasia’s memories. This was a wonderful retelling and very believable. The pain Kasia felt in her place as a Polish Jew in a Nazi infested world. Her struggle with certain events. Her determination to stand up as Romek had. A plus was that Kasia loved playing the piano and had a dream of being a concert pianist. I give bonus points to stories that have an aspect such as this and actually portray the enthusiasm and love musicians have for their art. Another must read!

 

Death be Not Proud by Suzannah Rowntree

This was the retelling I couldn’t figure out. What story was it retelling? The ending made sense, in a way, but at the same time I was still confused as to what happened. Maybe I was just distracted, but I couldn’t seem to make sense of the mystery. That said, I loved the suspense and reality of the whole thing…wait, I think I just figured out what story this is retelling. Snow White. Congratulations Ms. Rowntree! It took me way more than 20 times longer to figure out what the retelling was about than to read the short story. I am impressed. A book that keeps you thinking and considering a long while after reading it is inevitably a good book. If you like mystery, suspense, and a sweet romance, you definitely want to pick up this story!

 

With Blossoms Gold by Hayden Wand

This short story was a retelling of Rapunzel. I have to say that it reminded me a lot of Mrs. Melanie Dickerson’s fairy tale retellings (which I greatly admire), though it seemed more innocent and sweet. I absolutely loved watching Ben and Nella get to know each other. Ben reminds me of another Ben much like him (reference Becoming Bea by Leslie Gould to understand.) whom I liked very much. While Ben was a little of a silly-scratch that, carefree. He seems to be satisfied fully with what he has, acting young and carefree and pretending he doesn’t need love. But, if I’m not much mistaken, Ben desired to love someone completely and to be loved as much as his brother and his fiance who were definitely in love. I think that, underneath Ben’s almost flippant attitude was a character desiring some deep, complete connection. Like love. I am a great admirer of Ms. Wand. She writes in such a wise way as her stories always seem to have more to them than just a story. This short story spoke of facing fear and overcoming it. It spoke to the struggles and fears we have. It spoke to our desire for love. The way we hide our pain under carefree moods. Reminds me of Louisa May Alcott’s writing. I love L.M. Alcott’s writing because she teaches lessons with her books, but doesn’t force them. She just lets the story teach the lesson. Only a delicate hand can do such a thing and Ms. Wand has such a hand.

 

Ratings (# out of 5)

Romance: 4 (Not five because there is kissing and a little amount of description. Not lower than four because the kissing was not inappropriate for a teenage audience.)

Violence: 4 (Basically the same thing as above, there was violence, but it wasn’t bloody or gory and was approached in a matter of fact way rather than extremely descriptive.)

Language: 4 (Tentatively a four. I don’t seem to remember any language in the stories, but I have known myself to skip over language and promptly forget it was present. Only with books that have barely any language though.)

Substance Abuse: 4 (In Sweet Remembrance the characters have alcohol (some of which is illegal at that time), but none of the main characters get drunk. As far as I can tell, they are also all old enough to be consuming it.)

 

Thank you to each and every author who spent time writing these retellings for readers like me. I thoroughly enjoyed these stories. A double thanks for giving me the chance to read this collection in advance of its publication in exchange for my honest review. All the reviews expressed here are my own. You have my word.

 

Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity!

Therese May Signature