Bookish Reviewish~ In Which I Decide To Be A Grump For No Good Reason

Greetings, my friends!

It’s time for the Sponge’s first Bookish Reviewish post of 2023…which actually mainly features books I read at the end of 2022. I guess I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to the previous year yet. That probably won’t be until March or so.

Just a fair warning, I am going to complain a lot in this post. Am I a harsh critic? Perhaps unreasonably so at times? Well, sure I am. I realize that all these authors worked exceptionally hard and that I couldn’t write a book with fewer flaws than theirs. Yup. I do know all this.

But I am going to complain about them anyway. I can be grouchy like that.

Slaves of the Mastery by William Nicholson (The Wind on Fire trilogy #2)

It has been five years since Bowman, Kestrel and Mumpo went on their quest (do I remember what this quest was? Not really?), and life in Aramanth has changed for the better…though this doesn’t stop our trio from feeling angsty about things, naturally (including the prospect of marriage and ancient powers living inside them and stuff like that). And then their lives are irrevocably altered in the blink of an eye. Their city is violently destroyed, the Manth people are taken captive, and Kestrel is separated from her family.


  • The world-building (honestly it feels a little bit like a Dune-wannabe, but I don’t really mind that?)
  • Siblings (Kestrel and Bowman and Pinto are all sweethearts)
  • The parents actually exist (Whaaat)
  • Mumpo not being what I expected (even though it also kind of upsets me??)
  • Kestrel freaking out about marriage (same, though)
  • Bowman being the sweetest angsty soul (I am fond of kids like this, as we know)
  • Mist the cat (captures the perfect cat mood)
  • The whole Mastery situation (I guess it’s kind of world-building again, but yeah)
  • The climax (‘twas angsty and the build-up was pretty good)


  • The solider guy who was in love with Sisi (he was just…annoying)
  • The guy with the sacred chicken (he was just…weird)
  • The way it kept describing what Marius wanted to do with Kestrel (it wasn’t really that bad, but at the same time…I do not want it in my life)
  • Some of Mumpo’s decisions (because it still upsets me, even if I kind of like it?)
  • When Bowman and Kestrel are almost too close (sometimes I’m like “yay siblings” and sometimes I’m like “…eh?”)
  • Hanno Hath not feeling enough like a real person (I want to like him, and I kind of do, but he feels too perfect for some reason?)

Verdict: A fairly solid sci-fi/fantasy story with strong family relationships and a thought-provoking world. I just wish I cared a little bit more.

My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

Ten-year-old Ken really, really wants a horse of his own. But his dad is extremely hesitant to let him have one, considering Ken’s abysmal track record when it comes to focusing and following instructions. He’s just a total space cadet and his dad has no idea what to do with him. Thankfully he has a mom, too, and she has ideas.


  • Ken (this kid is so much like my cousin when she was younger and he is precious)
  • The ranch vibes (it’s so wholesome, you know)
  • Nell (what would the men on this ranch do without her?)
  • Flicka (a crazy horse? Not a crazy horse? Who knows?)
  • Ken’s relationship with his dad (not all good but not all bad which is actually realistic)
  • The writing style (ah, simple but effective imagery)
  • The spiritual metaphors (I do love me some metaphors, guys)


  • Nell sometimes being too perfect (like, she can be a great person without being “the ideal woman”, okay?)
  • Howard being non-existent (like…is Ken’s brother even real?)
  • Rob being low-key abusive(?) sometimes (not that it’s unrealistic or anything, it’s just…I don’t like it)
  • Me feeling like a loser because I don’t work half as hard as these people do

Verdict: A wholesome story about a dreamer and his devotion to his horse. I can’t really compare it to other horse books, since I haven’t read any, but I’m glad I read this one.

My grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry by Fredrik Backman

Elsa’s granny is unconventional to the point of insanity. Pretty much. Like, she shoots paint balls at her neighbors whilst scantily clad, and sneaks into the zoo in the middle of the night. She’s Elsa’s favorite person in the world.


  • Wolfheart (this man is just broken and desperately needs hugs but he would keel over at the prospect of getting one someone please help him)
  • Alf (how could I not love Alf? What a curmudgeon)
  • The Land-of-Almost-Awake (parallel fairy tales within a story are kind of my jam)
  • The whole letter scenario framework (it unfolded…as it were)
  • The way all the people in Elsa’s building end up interacting with each other and just being people (severely dysfunctional people, but people are always dysfunctional to some extent)
  • The writing style (this Backman fellow has got a way with words)


  • The language (language doesn’t always bother me, but there was a lot of it? And it was just unpleasant)
  • Elsa’s granny (I just…couldn’t like her. She had some morality issues that really irked me. Also I get easily upset about parents abandoning their kids even if it’s for a noble cause. I don’t know, she just irritated me and I’m kind of upset about that because she is human and did a lot of good, too. Ugh)
  • The “this-is-an-adult-book-so-nihilism” thing (it could have been worse, but also just no)
  • Divorced parents (totally not fair of me since there is so much divorce everywhere but it kind of depresses me to read about it like this. Especially since it falls into the category of abandoning your kids)
  • The thing at the very end with the boy-with-a-syndrome and the costume party (this is kind of the worst even though it’s technically a small thing and I’m still angry about it)

Verdict: Um, so I actually didn’t really like this book overall. Despite the good things, and there were quite a few of them. There are just certain kinds of messaging that make my blood boil. Anything that involves harming children and putting it in any kind of positive light will do it.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Kim has lived in India his entire life (despite being Irish by birth), and he’s been an orphan for almost all of that time. He’s incredibly street-smart and quick-witted, and by the time he joins the lama (a holy man from Tibet who is in search of a mystical river) he’s already been involved in some questionable dealings, particularly concerning the horse-dealer Mahbub Ali.


  • Kim (there is just something about this child. He’s definitely the kind of person who would laugh when he was hurt, so obviously I love him)
  • The political intrigue going on (did I understand it? Nope. Not at all. But it was exciting)
  • The lama low-key reminding me of another dear cousin of mine (brilliant but also clueless, it’s a thing)
  • Mahbub Ali (I hated the guy, actually, but I loved hating him, so…? He was wonderful as a character, kind of awful as a person)
  • Some stellar metaphors in Kim’s personal journey (Kim’s character development is golden, I say)


  • Kipling gave us no sequel (it needs a sequel, guys)
  • Seemingly demonic (?) activity that didn’t…matter? (why was it in there if there weren’t going to be repercussions later on? I was confused)
  • Me being hopelessly lost concerning the political activity (it makes me feel like I have the IQ of a rabbit, but okay)
  • When the lama’s ideologies were sometimes just weird (I was honestly confused about what happened at the end…?)

Verdict: An impactful historical drama about a boy caught between two worlds, trying to find his way through life—and of course it’s about his relationship with the lama. My main quibble is with the few things that were set up and then came to nothing—or, at least, not as much as I was expecting. A sequel would take care of this, in case you were wondering how I felt about a sequel.

Firesong by William Nicholson (The Wind on Fire trilogy #3)

The Manth people have escaped the whole slavery thing and are now migrating across a desert, led by the prophetess Ira Hath. They are headed for the homeland, though nobody knows where it is or what it is or if it’s even real. Also, Bowman is waiting for someone to come get him because he thinks he’s been chosen for some special task by the Singer People.


  • Bowman (he’s still my favorite?)
  • The metaphors (I’ve been finding metaphors in most of these, haven’t I?)
  • The stinging fly (just a vessel for angst, no?)
  • Mist (again, he’s got the cat mood down)
  • How much Hanno loves his wife (this is actually appreciated throughout the whole trilogy)


  • The plot twist (that wasn’t actually a plot twist since we all saw it coming from early on in book two—and possibly in book one if we remembered book one)
  • The whole ending/climax part, actually (it was just…meh?)
  • Also the way things ended up with the twins was…not my favorite (too much like Dune now. Like, the part of Dune I have issues with)
  • Jumper (I don’t know. Jumper was weird)
  • The Singer People being too generic in their New Age/Eastern mysticism/wait-are-we-some-version-of-Jedi thing (not memorable or interesting)
  • Certain parts where certain people killed people and enjoyed it and that was just…okay? (I get that the circumstances were a thing, but also so much satisfaction in the act of killing makes me concerned is all I’m saying)
  • I was not a huge fan of any of the romances (aside from Hanno and Ira being a wholesome married couple)

Verdict: This book was largely disappointing, though it did have a few interesting elements to it. The way the story all came together wasn’t really satisfying (though it could easily have been worse), and the world is getting a bit old at this point. It was still entertaining, though. I think the second book is stronger.

Bardelys the Magnificent by Rafael Sabatini

Marcel (an affluent marquis with a rather scandalous reputation, known as ‘Bardelys the Magnificent’) gets himself into an outlandish bargain. He has to successfully woo the fair but allegedly cold-hearted Roxalanne de Lavédan (a woman he has yet to meet) or forfeit his entire estate to Chatellerault, who has himself just returned from Lavédan upon failing to woo said frosty maiden. Doesn’t he sound like a smart guy?


  • The banter (there was some snappy dialogue in there)
  • The swordplay and general action (entertaining, certainly)
  • Mistaken identity, rebellion and intrigue (eh, it’s fun)
  • Castelroux (the only character I genuinely liked. His cousin was actually okay, too)


  • Marcel (…this man irritated me. So much. Ugh. I will spare you the rant, but…his self-righteousness, oh my WORD)
  • Marcel’s lack of character growth (he thought he was growing? But he wasn’t really? Maybe a little, but still)
  • Roxalanne’s behaviour toward Marcel (what does she SEE in him??)

Verdict: It’s kind of hard to like a book when you can’t stand the main character, so…yeah. I kept hoping he would redeem himself in my eyes, but it never quite happened. That scene towards the end really ruined any chance he had. Entertaining, in an aggravating sort of way, but definitely not a story I actually care about.


Were there some good things in there? Absolutely (such as Kim and Ken, dear children that they are).  But for some reason I am in a mood to be grumpy about the things I didn’t like (mainly Elsa’s granny and Marcel, it seems). I think I get unreasonably bothered when I feel like I don’t get a character? Or when I can’t stand them but I kind of feel like I am them… Rather silly of me, I know. I do take this all a bit too seriously. But sometimes I do enjoy being a grump.

What have you been reading lately? Do characters ever just make you unreasonably grumpy? Are there any books you’ve read that you wish had sequels? or perhaps books you’ve read that do have sequels but they end up ruining the story? I hope your 2023 is going well so far!

8 thoughts on “Bookish Reviewish~ In Which I Decide To Be A Grump For No Good Reason

  1. “There are just certain kinds of messaging that make my blood boil. Anything that involves harming children and putting it in any kind of positive light will do it.” That’s a good reason to be upset. It’s a pity, the ‘yea’ aspects of Backman’s book sounded interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There really are a lot of really good things about the book. It’s possible I am overreacting, just a tad. It’s more than the things in the book reminded me of bigger things that are actually going on…so I kind of read things into it that weren’t necessarily there. Except I think they were. But anyway. The thoughts aren’t coming coherently today.


  2. I’m not familiar with any of these except My Friend Flicka (which I loved) and Kim (which I hated, but please don’t come after me…I was a sophomore in high school). But most of the other ones don’t sound like ones I’d want to get acquainted with anyway, so I guess that’s okay. XD

    I’d thought about reading My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, because A Man Called Ove is awesome, but maybe not? Not a fan of things that involve harming children, either. But I’m kind of curious it, as well as Backman’s other books, anyway, because they can’t all be bad, if Ove was so good…right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you loved Flicka! I don’t blame you for hating Kim, but it does sadden me. Perhaps one of these days you could give it another chance, you know, since you are older and wiser. 😉

      Hm, yeah, I mean you might like it? My grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry DID have a lot of good things going for it, but for some reason it just left a bad taste in my mouth. It might not strike you the same way, so it might be worth a shot. Ove was something special, though. I don’t know if any of his other books could be as amazing.


  3. Kim IS the kind of person who laughs when he’s hurting. (Which…makes how vulnerable he can be with the lama REALLY beautiful to me.) The lama is brilliant but clueless and I love him too. I was also confused by what happened at the end and kind of…disappointed? Basically, the lama made me really sad through the whole thing because he was SO earnest and so good and so LOST because DETACHMENT ISN’T THE IDEAL, IT ISN’T HOW YOU ACHIEVE CLOSENESS TO GOD, AND YOUR LOVE FOR THIS BOY IS A WONDERFUL THING, NOT A SIN, but then the end was just like…oh, he wasn’t lost after all? Or something? I don’t know? Maybe I completely misunderstood it? Anyway, I wasn’t thrilled. But I loved the rest of the book so much that I didn’t…care? Which is rare for me. (I really am so glad you liked this book, though. despite its faults.)

    Bardelys the Magnificent sounds…awful. XD For some reason your description is reminding me of Mistress Wilding (also by Sabatini), except I liked that one because the evolution of the heroine’s viewpoint toward the hero made sense, and he was neither altogether bad nor altogether good at the beginning and genuinely changed (or at least…was sorry for the stuff he did that he Shouldn’t Have Done…and wasn’t just sorry, but actually took action/was willing to take action to rectify it, which I feel like is the test of whether you’re REALLY sorry or not) by the end. I will probably read Bardelys at some point in my life in my quest to read all of Sabatini, but I’m not in a hurry now. XD I don’t like all of Sabatini’s books (that I’ve read), but they’ve all been entertaining, so I guess he’s doing SOMETHING right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed! What a precious child. Yes yes yes, there is so much beauty in Kim’s relationship with the lama.

      I felt the same way about the lama and the ending, actually. I wanted him to be wrong, but then…he wasn’t?? (I’ve recently been doing a lot of ranting about people in stories who need to be wrong. I’m realizing I have passionate feelings about this subject.) But yeah, the ending was weird. Unless I just didn’t get it, which is highly likely. In spite of that, what a beautiful book.

      (Speaking of beautiful books I just finished Year of the Black Pony!! And CHRIS AND FRANK you were absolutely right.)

      Hehe…well. It wasn’t that Marcel was altogether bad? I just…didn’t…like him. Um. Yes. It does sound quite similar to Mistress Wilding, which I have not read. And sometimes I like characters like that? It sometimes depends on my mood, or just how it’s handled. For some reason I just could not believe Marcel’s remorse. At all. He was so irritating. But even so, I wanted him to figure it out? I wanted him to fall harder so he could genuinely become a decent human being, but things ultimately turned out to well before he fell far enough, so he wasn’t able to redeem himself in my eyes…if that makes sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Characters who need to be wrong but then they aren’t are SUCH a thing. I support all rants. I don’t know if it actually ties in but I feel like that ties in with characters who need to fall harder so they can be MORE redeemed (like Marcel apparently). I’ve felt that way about MANY characters and it’s so frustrating especially when it was almost there???

        (I am JOY AND EXCITEMENT. Aren’t they WONDERFUL?! Bless Frank for being a Good Dad, I mean.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. YES. It does tie in. For sure. Characters MUST be wrong and characters MUST fall very hard in order to be redeemed. Yes. Whoever said that suffering would build character was onto something, apparently…

        (THEY ARE WONDERFUL. YES, Frank is the Best Dad, someone get him an award.)

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s