Richard, He Who Always Smiles IRJE #4

The Ghost Woods by C.J. Cooke is about a mansion called Lichen Hall where pregnant girls who are not ready to have kids are taken in for care. This story develops in two timelines, one in the present (1965) and another in 1959. Pearl, the character of the present timeline gets up and sees Richard at the dining table. She has gone out on a walk at 3 A.M. the night before to contemplate her life.

He is smiling, but Richard always smiles, a strange little grin that never reaches his eyes. He never laughs, or says kind things, and so the smile sometimes makes me think he’s imagining dark things and taking pleasure in them. (p. 43)

In the previous chapters, Pearl has been portrayed by Cooke as someone who is stuck in a dark place, not knowing how to move forward because she is pregnant. In turn, she sees the worst in people. She sees Richard who is always smiling to be thinking of awful things instead of being happy. This paragraph helps show who Pearl is to the readers who is trying to understand each characters earlier on in the story.

Train to Nowhere: 3

Never has Theo feel so alone in his life; despite his friends standing right in front of him, the only thing he wants right now is home. What is home, anymore… I won’t go back for sure. He tells himself while watching the clouds run through the sky. Tears well in his eyes before being interrupted by Teddy’s scream,

“Hey! The bags! They have our names on them! Come get them guys!”

How could one be so hopeful and joyous right now? Theo thinks before grabbing his backpack and inspects its contents: a flashlight, a small bottle of colourful liquid, a book, and a knife.

“Cool, they gave us a book to kill a psycho,” Shane scoffs, “Never mind, Theo, I have a gun!” He pulls the trigger and shoots at the ground. The crowd laughs.

The year leaders, Alex and Georgie gather all students together and command that they all should go explore as a group. But when the group arrives at a crossroad between a tunnel and a dimly-lit staircase, a voice booms from the tunnel,

“The students have made the wrong choice to stay in a big group.”

”WHO IS THAT?” Brandon yells back. Silence. “SHOW YOURSELF, MAN!” More silence.

“Do we split up then?” Justin asks the crowd, “you heard the… guy.”

“Hell no! That’s how we die!” Simon shouts, “Not even these muscles can save all of y’all.” He kisses his biceps, the crowd groans.

“As much as I hate to admit it, I think we should split up,” Alex nervously tells his classmates.

“I’ll take 9 others for the tunnel!” Victoria smiles optimistically, a few of her friends join, but other are just mutuals.

“I can go explore the building…” Ivy says. She was one of the extroverts of her year, so many immediately join her group, including Simon who drives her crazy.

“I saw a latch at the front gate… we could explore that,” Georgie says. He is the smartest kid, many rushes to join his group, but Alex can only watch him as he gains teammates.

“We can look around the train tracks,” Alex says before many introverts join him. They find him comforting with his humour and company.

“Parker gang here!” Giggled Parker before the rest of the students join him. Theo feels lost because he doesn’t feel familiar to any of the group. Sure he is a social butterfly at school, but he never feels like he belongs anywhere; not with the popular girls, or the jocks. He didn’t really fit in with the smarty pants, or the quiet ones either.

“Theo, join us!” Patrick smiles as he reaches his hand over and Theo accepts.

The five groups split their path, not knowing what lies ahead.

Villainy Unmasked

The final few chapters of The School for Good and Evil: a world without princes revolves around the Trial by Tales that the deans of both schools for girls and boys have set up for their students. At the end, Agatha reunites with Tedros while Sophie is heartbroken that her best friend is stolen from her once again. Shattered, Sophie makes a wish to see her mother again, a wish that Dean Evelyn granted.

The ghost [of her mother] smiled lovingly at her, and Sophie fell to her knees.

….“Is it you? Are you my true love?” Sophie asked her mother, eyes wide.

Her mother smiled. “You have to trust me.”

“I do trust you,” said Sophie, tears running. “You’re the only one who knows who I am.”

Evelyn shows her true Evil by using Sophie’s vulnerability to complete her goal: bring the dead Schoolmaster, who she loves, back to life. Because Sophie is grieving her passed mother, Evelyn uses this opportunity to put the Schoolmaster as a form of Sophie’s mother’s phantom. Only a true love kiss can bring someone back to life, just like in fairy tales. This leads to the resurrection of the Schoolmaster. This quote reminds me that many people will exploit your own sadness to get their way, and to be careful of others intentions. 

Train to nowhere: 2

Teddy woke up on the school bus. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except for the fact that he remembered passing out on his bed.  Why the hell am I wearing this stupid uniform anyway! He thought to himself staring at his own reflection in the window. He tidied up his brunette hair and noticed stubbles appearing after 2 days without shaving. A never-ending road of dried grass and the bright sun blinded him. It wasn’t a great sight to see after he learned that he had to hunt down a blood thirsty murderer with 50 other teenagers. He peered at the driver; an unfamiliar face stared back at him through the rearview mirror.

“Hey! Where in the world are we going to? We’re supposed to be finding the murderer, not a vacation to some dumb desert!” He yelled at the driver. Surprisingly, no one has woken up from that.

“Shut up boy! You should be grateful no one murdered you last night!” The driver hissed back, stomping on the accelerator, which sent Teddy back in his seat. Teddy nudged Parker who was sound asleep. He also tried slapping Vincent in the face but he didn’t budge. Without any hope of waking any of his friends up, Teddy was left with no choice but to go back to sleep.


“Oi Ted!” screamed Vincent in his ears, “Wakey wakey! Oi Ted! Wake up! We’re here!” Teddy forced his eyes open; the sight of seeing his best friends awake cheered him up.

“Where… are we?” Teddy asked.

“Some weird train station,” Parker replied. “C’mon. Let’s get off this bus. I’m sure it will be a blast!” Teddy questioned whether Parker had lost his mind or just forgotten the fact that he was on a task to find a murderer.

Once all of the students gathered on the dirt path, the intercom screamed at the students. “Welcome, students of Oakridge Academy! Hope you had a great trip coming up all the way here!” The girls were gossiping as if they were in the lunchroom and not an abandoned train station. “As you know, you are assigned by the governor to hunt this murderer down! We do not have clear informations of what he looks like, but he is somewhere here. Best of luck, I hope you make it.” The voice laughed menacingly before the intercom turned off. Before anyone knew, the buses were gone. The students cried, some even begging the voice to spare them. Teddy eyed the only things left behind: 51 bags, labeled with all students names.

Once Unbreakable, Now Torn Apart

In the book The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes, Agatha sneaks into the boys school to reconcile with Tedros. Unbeknownst to her, Sophie and the Dean has been spying on her, as she was supposed to be on guarding duties with Dot. Sophie now has no trust in her best friend because she promises to be with Sophie until the end. Agatha sees an image of Tedros asking her to go see him at the Schoolmaster’s tower by crossing the bridge; she does so in an attempt to win him back and convert the schools back to its formal state. Dean Sader, the girl’s school dean watches as Agatha runs towards the bridge connecting both schools.

Far behind, in the shadows of the Girls’ blue archway, Dean Sader’s green eyes pierced the fog. But watching her student vanish into the rotted towers, she made no move.

Sophie chasing Agatha. Agatha chasing her prince.

Two friends once unbreakable and now torn apart.

The Dean turned and sauntered back to her castle.

Be careful what you wish for, girls.

Her gap-toothed grin gleamed through darkness.

Be careful of what you wish for, indeed. (187-188)

This passage was interesting to me because not only can I understand Dean Sader’s thoughts about the relationship between Sophie, Agatha, and Tedros, it reveals the Dean Sader’s mysterious and cunning personality as her character unfolds throughout the book. Even if she sees Agatha traveling towards the boy’s school, the Dean refuses to say anything and even continues to watch Agatha. Another interesting thing about this passage is we get the Narrator’s point of view as well. The Narrator emphasizes that the girls needed to be careful of what they wish for. This could be foreshadowing to a wish that one of the girls made, etc.

Train to Nowhere: 1

The Midnight Ball is extravagant. The school reserved the hotel’s conference room just for us. The girls are wearing beautiful long gowns while the boys wear suits tailored just for them. The ballroom is filled with arranged wildflower in vases on top of white round tables. The girls heels clack as a slow-dancing song plays. A girl with brown braids and pink puffy dress, Mya, dances with Tristan. Beside the lovebirds are Lucas and Jeremy who are messing around together as always. At the middle table stood a pyramid of banana muffins and a bowl of punch. I walk towards the table and got myself two cups of juice and searched for Jade; she is resting on one of the balconies. Her blonde hair shines in the moonlight and her green eyes glitter while her white dress flutters in the wind. I shoved her the cup of juice I’ve gotten for her. We talk about stupid things: what the punch is made of, how stupid this entire ball is, how we wished something more exciting would happen.

Suddenly, Mr. Sharma clangs his glass of champagne as he walks up to the stage to make an announcement, “Tonight is the last night we are staying here… As we are heading elsewhere tomorrow!” The room groans. “We’ve been assigned by the governor to assess all of your abilities to survive in the real world. We know that you are able to work together to take down this serial killer on the loose!”

Before any of us could process what is going on, the teachers force us out of the hall and into our rooms.

“Sweet dreams, Jade and Abigail. Have the rest you will need,” smiles Mrs. Hampton, as she locks our door. As the room filled with silence and darkness, I closed my eyes.

All Quiet, Soldier’s Home, and They Shall Not Grow Old

All Quiet, Soldier’s Home, and They Shall Not Grow Old all tell stories of soldiers emotions. They recall the events they face and what they feel. They Shall Not Grow Old differ from All Quiet and Soldier’s Home because it is not a written work but a film. It tells a story using photographs, videos, and interviews with many soldiers, not just the imagery we visualize through reading. Despite being from different sides of the war, all of these story share a few common grounds.

One similarity between the film and All Quiet was when the soldiers were in hand to hand combat and killed someone. In They Shall Not Grow Old, the soldier told the story of when he killed a German Soldier and he felt sorry for him. In the moment they were not enemies but men watching another die. The soldiers gave him water, he thanked the soldier and passed away. Similarly, In All Quiet, Paul was in a hand to hand combat and stabbed an enemy. He didn’t know what to do because he has never killed someone this close before. Because the soldier did not die quickly, Paul cannot do anything but take care of him until he dies. Paul discovers the soldier has a family and wrote a letter to them that he killed him. In both scenarios, they both feel bad for killing the opponent and was broken by it.

Another similarity between the film and Soldier’s Home was the fact that when the soldiers came home, they didn’t know what to do with themselves. In They Shall Not Grow Old, the soldiers interviewed explained that once the war was over, they couldn’t find jobs because they serve no commercial value. Many boys grew up in the war, therefore they do not have experience in the world. Like the film, Krebs couldn’t find himself working, to the point where his mother started pointing out that he should become successful like his friends. “The boys are settling down; they’re all determined to get somewhere; you can see that boys like Charlie Simmons are on their way to being really a credit to the community.” (page 6) To the veterans, they cannot be of value to society because all they could not grow out of the war.

‘How Can You Wish for Someone You Do Not Trust?’: Independent Reading Journal Entry

In The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princesby Soman Chainani, Sophie and Agatha from the Woods Beyond arrive at the Schools only to find that they have been transformed to schools for boys and girls. The Dean told the two friends that for the schools to be reversed, they both had to wish for each other and mean it.

She gazed at Sophie. “How can you wish for Agatha if you know she wants her prince?”

The Dean turned to Agatha. “How can you wish for Sophie if you fear the witch inside?”

“How can you wish for someone you do not trust?” (p.88)

The Dean’s dialogue shows that she wanted to spite Sophie and Agatha to hold grudges against each other and therefore cause distrust in the friendship. The thought of her best friend betraying her would shatter Sophie and Agatha still doesn’t know if her best friend really changed from being a vengeful witch worthy to be wished for. This quote clearly shows a crack in their relationship, and therefore was easy for the Dean to hurt them even more.

Krebs and Paul Comparison

In Soldier’s Home and a part of All Quiet on the Western Front, both authors display the inner ordeals that soldiers had to fight through on their leave from the battles. While every experience is different, there are some that can overlap, showing similar challenges soldiers may face. While both boys enlisted in the military, they had polar opposite reactions to fighting in the war. Krebs liked fighting in the war because it was exciting for him while Paul was traumatized by the loss of his friends. Something that both boys had in common was that they did not want to talk about their experience in the war, however, for different reasons. Because Krebs arrived home later than most soldiers, no one wanted to hear war stories because it was boring, so to be listened to, he made up stories to be more engaging. Paul did not want to talk about the war because it was “dangerous for me to put into words” (page 165) and because he doesn’t want to bring forth the terrible memories that are associated with it. The town both characters grew up in hasn’t changed since they left, only how they view the world that has changed. The effect of the war led to different treatment of their own family members. While Paul, who still cared about his family knew that eventually they would have to part again, spent most of his time with them, Krebs could not express the same. It seemed the war had made him numb without him realizing and caused Krebs to choose not to express any love for anyone, not even his mother. “I do not love anybody” (page 7) 

All Quiet on the Western Front: A Personal Reflection

During times when war was rather romanticized than feared, Erich Maria Remarque wrote a book based on his experiences fighting during WWI. Instead of glorifying war or victimizing the Germans in this book, he instead humanized them so they could be well understood by readers throughout the world. Many scenes focus on conveying emotions that soldiers feel, while in and out of battle. This helped readers empathize with the soldiers, especially the Germans who were viewed as villains in many portrayals of the war. The German soldiers felt pain, sadness, happiness, and fear just like the allied soldiers. The choices of poetic words in many parts throughout the book illustrate Paul’s emotions and thoughts, which relate to the influences of war. This book was the only book I have read about World War I, but it opened my eyes to the effects of historical fiction. 

Paul, the main character of this book, went through many hardships throughout this book. He endured many difficulties, but two that are worth exploring most include trauma from losing friends in battles and the loss of identity. In the beginning, Paul enlisted to fight in the war with a few of his friends, meaning that they were bound to witness each others’ deaths. The first death mentioned was of Joseph Behm, who was Paul’s schoolmate. He was on the battlefield and was shot in the eye. While he did not die immediately, he screamed for help and was later shot by the enemy again. The first death revealed the harsh reality of the war because Kantorek, Paul’s teacher, convinced many soldiers that they were here for the best for the country.

“The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief… While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger.” (pages 12-13) 

The second death was of one of Paul’s close friends, Kemmerich. Paul’s reaction to Kemmerich’s death was very torturous as he watched his best friend die. He was angry that the doctors refused to do anything to save him, he was sad because he would die alone without his family surrounding him, only with his classmates. Paul quickly realized that war made them grow up too fast, and without uniforms, they were still young boys who had dreams and aspirations. Over time, Paul’s reaction to his friends’ deaths became more “normal” as he became more familiar with the losses. However, a death that stood out the most was Katzinsky’s death. His death left Paul broken. Katczinsky’s death was the hardest for Paul to accept because Kat was there for him from the beginning; Kat was a reliable man who everyone looked up to for help and advice. Another reason Kat’s death was most influential was that Paul thought he suffered just a minor injury, but later discovered he died on his back so suddenly. Because of this, Paul couldn’t say goodbye as he could to other friends. Kat’s and​​ Kemerrich’s deaths were similar in a way, as Paul spent much of his time with them and many meaningful memories were made. Losing friends is crushing, especially during wars. 

The lost sense of identity, while not mentioned at the beginning of the book, was constantly discussed towards the middle and the end of the book. Paul first experienced this emotion on his short leave back home. Despite being where he grew up, Paul felt a sense of strangeness while his mother embraced him. 

“ ‘You are home, you are at home.’ But a sense of strangeness will not leave me, I cannot feel at home amongst these things. There is my mother, there is my sister, there my case of butterflies, and there the mahogany piano— but I am not myself there. There is a distance, a veil between us.” (page 160)

In this passage, it can be noted that war was already a part of him, to the point that he can no longer feel at home in the environment that he grew up in; rather the place where he experienced bad memories was where he associates himself with. In the arms of his mother, he felt safe, but he wasn’t the boy she raised anymore. Later in the chapter, Paul’s father stripped his own son’s identity to just a piece of uniform. To his father, his son was no longer someone he raised, but someone who has experienced the war that many glorified. He would rather have his son wear a uniform than civilian clothes; he would rather hear about the fighting in the war than how his son feels about the war itself. On his leave back to the motherland is where Paul first realized the loss of his identity. At the end of the book, Paul let his thoughts run wild, he was tired of facing the war, and he wanted it all to an end:

“All that meets me, all that floods over me are but feelings — greed of life, love of home, yearning for the blood, intoxication of deliverance, but no aims…. I am so alone, and so without hope that I can confront them without fear.” (pages 294-295)

The conflicts that war brought to Paul took away his friends and stripped him of his identity nothing is left for him, not even himself. 



Hello Guy.

my name is ice. nice to meet you you should definitely follow me on instagram (@icecreamdingdong) frfr im so cool u should also be friends w me im a great friend.

Good morning/afternoon/evening, my dear friend reading this blog post. My name is Ice and I’m from Bangkok, Thailand. Things I do a lot are gaming and overthinking. I also enjoy oversharing, as you can tell. My hopes and expectations of English this year is to be able to write well, at least better than this. I also want to make sure I read a lot this year because I used to read when I was younger.