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Review for Les Miserables

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Genre – Historical Fiction, Classic

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for death & some mild innuendo

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

This epic weaves many characters together to tell the story of the underdogs, the oppressed people struggling to survive in France in the early 1800’s. We start with Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who has just been released on parole. No one will offer him work due to his criminal past. Until the Bishop of Digne, Charles Myriel gives him supper and a bed for the night. Jean Valjean attempts to steal from Myriel, but the Bishop offers forgiveness and new life instead. Meanwhile Javert was an officer at the prison where Jean Valjean spent his 19 years and has been looking for him since. Javert holds his job above everything else in life. Then there is Fantine; who is destitute and at her wits end to provide for her daughter Cosette. She pays the Thenardiers to look after Cosette, but they scam Fantine for all she is worth, raising the price beyond what she can bear. Marius is a dreamer at heart. Once he realizes just how noble his father was, he leaves the safety of his grandfather’s house to find his own path in life. Fantine, Jean Valjean, Javert, Marius, & Cosette’s lives weave together to form an unforgettable story of redemption.

My Thoughts –

Well, this book holds a fascinating story. I do love the musical and movie versions of this book, but the book goes deeper and truly fleshes out the characters. At the start of the year, I saw that a blogger had decided to read two classic French books in a year – The Count of Monte Cristo & Les Miserables. I had read an abridged version of Les Miserables years ago and thought this should be the year when I actually read the whole thing. I had some time on my hands so went for it. I’m glad I did!! Was there tediously boring parts? Yes, several that didn’t even affect the story much. Plus Hugo is wordy guy! He loves taking pages to cover something that probably needed only a few sentences. At times it was slow going. Beware if you haven’t read the book or at least know the story, there will be *spoilers ahead.*

My Fair Lady movie review & film summary (1994) | Roger Ebert

Despite all this, I did it! I did it! Mentally singing the My Fair Lady song. πŸ˜‰

There are so many characters woven throughout the novel, some play minor roles and are only in a small percentage of the book. So, I’m just going to mention some of my favorites. First, Jean Valjean. His developmental arc is amazing!! His story is heartbreaking, and shows how much prison can change a person. His transformation into Monsieur Madeleine is unique in that he does it to keep his vow. He uses the money he made to impact and support the town of Montreuil-sur-mer. He builds workhouses to create jobs. But all it takes is one event to bring that crashing down. I loved that Hugo gave us a look into Valjean’s mind and the turmoil he goes through. Love and forgiveness can truly impact a person’s life.

Next, I was surprised at how much I liked Marius in the book. Hugo gives him a bit more backbone as opposed to some of the movies where he is a bit wishy-washy. His love for Cosette is sweet and innocent. I mean they go a whole year without having said one word to each other and just seeing other from a distance. I got frustrated with his constant endeavor to repay the man who saved his father’s life despite knowing that Thenardier is a scoundrel.

There are two minor characters that I loved as well – Gavroche and Enjolras. Gavroche is the forgotten son of Madame Thenardier. He lives on the street, but has generally happy attitude. Unbeknownst to him, he gives his brothers a safe night . While helping at the barricade, Gavroche sacrifices himself to retrieve ammo. Enjolras on the other hand was rich leader of the ABC society. He sought justice and liberty for the people and yet was aloof and distant from his comrades. I found him intriguing and a bit odd.

Although Hugo can be a long-winded writer, he does know how to draw the reader in to the character’s lives. The sections that revolved around plot I enjoyed quite a bit, it was the parts in between that could drag on forever. I kept wanting Hugo to make his point already. He covers everything from politics to his views on religion, and the sewer system as well as the whole battle of Waterloo.

However I do this is a book that everyone should read once in their lifetime. Jean Valjean’s story alone is worth the 1,200 pages. I teared up at the when when Marius realized just how wrong he was about him. Its an expansive story that covers a lot of territory. It took Hugo more then 20 years to write it and it shows. He gives you quite a bit to think about.

Quotes –

“Jean Valjean, my bother, you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good. I have bought your soul to save it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God” ( p. 11).

“Or so she believes, but it is an error to suppose that we can ever exhaust Fate or reach the end of anything . . . He who knows the answer to this knows all things. He is alone. His name is God” (p. 180).

“And he blesses God for having bestowed on him those two riches which the rich so often lack – work which makes a man free, and thought, which makes him worthy of freedom” ( p. 591).

“And then she wholeheartedly loved her father – that is to say, Jean Valjean- with an innocent, confiding love which mad of him the most charming and desirable of companions” (p. 767).

“and he thanked God from the depths of his heart for having caused him, unworthy wretch that he was, to be so loved by a creature so innocent” (p.769).

Language – Roughly 6 uses of mild language, mostly used by author in his meandering,

Violence – We get a look at what it is like to live in the prison at Toulon and it is a sad how the prisoners were treated. Valjean goes on the run several times running away from Javert. In one instance he is captured by the Thenardiers and beaten. A man seeing Fantine, puts snow down her dress which leads to her becoming very sick. Fantine dies from hearing words that devastate her. Hugo mentions how soldiers died at Waterloo and were piled up. At the barricade, all the combatants die terrible deaths. Eponine dies in an effort to save Marius’s life. Marius believes that Valjean kills Javert, finds out later this is untrue. Javert commits suicide.

Innuendo – So, we get a brief look at Fantine’s life before she moves with Cosette. She falls in love with Tholomyes a poet and she is thinking of marriage. Unfortunately he leaves her in the lurch with a child. Later on, it is mentioned that, as a last resort, Fantine becomes a prostitute to make ends meet. No details, but it is mentioned a several times throughout the book.

Conclusion –

Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals and I’m glad I read this giant book. Although, actually its exactly the same length as The Count of Monte Cristo, go figure. The story takes dark turns at times and it can be depressing just how far some of the characters go. Yet, it is not all dark, there are moments of self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and love. Even Javert begins to realize that people can change. Is it a commitment? Yes, you will have to set aside time to delve into this classic. However it is worth wading into.

Have you heard of Les Mis or read an adaption? Do you have a favorite song from the musical? Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Up Next – It is finally beginning to feel like summer and I’m in the mood for some lighter reading. I am starting The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Anna

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Review of The Normal Christian Life

The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

Genre – Nonfiction, Christian

Series – No

Rating – G – Aimed at adults

Synopsis –

Nee walks us through different aspects in a Christian’s life with his focus being on the book of Romans. He dives into just how much the the blood and the Cross did for us as well as going from knowing to reckoning what Christ did. He includes a few stories from his own life to help elucidate certain points. His goal is that we would be wasted for the Lord.

My Thoughts –

It has taken me 5 months to slowly read though this book. Normally I don’t take that long, but I read this one chapter maybe every 2 weeks. To start, a lady at my church began a women’s study through this book back in December. So I began reading it then. Also, I don’t read much nonfiction especially related to Christian living. Many of the modern Christian living books have some interesting beliefs thrown in so I tend to steer clear. Before that I had never even heard of this book, but what a deep and engaging book it turned out it be!

Nee starts off discussing the blood of Christ and why we need it. “We need forgiveness for the sins we have committed, lest we come under judgment; and they are forgiven, not because God overlooks what we have done but because he sees the Blood.” (p. 7). He then goes though Romans 6, 7, & 8 discussing 4 conditions: Knowing, Reckoning, Presenting ourselves to God, & Walking in the Spirit.

Nee really drives home how we died with Christ and I found this section eye opening as I hadn’t really thought of that verse in this way. He references Romans 6:6,8 and delves into how can you know, “whereas you were crucified on the selfsame cross a he, for you were in him when he died. How can you know? You can know for the one sufficient reason that God has said so.” (p.45). He brings it home by discussing the first Adam and how Christ was the last Adam.

Quotes:

“Grace means that God does something for me; law means I do something for God” ( p. 156)

“deliverance from the law implies that he exempts me from doing it, and that in grace he does it himself.” ( p. 156).

“Having at last reached the point of utter despair in ourselves so that we cease even to try, we put our trust in the Lord to manifest his resurrection life in us.” (p. 166).

“As long as we are trying to do anything, he can do nothing. It is because of our trying that we fail and fail and fail. ” (p. 167).

Conclusion –

Nee goes deep into several chapters in Romans as well Genesis. He raised up several points that led me to think about where I stood in my walk with Christ. I loved that he used Scripture to support Scripture. A good book to read slowly, and not rush though. I’d highly recommend it!

Up Next – I started Les Miserables and am about half way though. So will be working on that. Hoping to finish in about a week.

Over to you what have you been reading lately? Have any favorite nonfiction? Have you read this book?

Anna

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Review for Beowolf

Beowolf

Author unknown, translated by Seamus Heaney

Genre – Medieval Epic, Fiction, Poem

Series – No

Rating – PG- for battles with monsters

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

We are given a glimpse into the history of two nations: the Geats, & the Danes. The Danish kingdom is under attack by a monster named Grendel. Their plight has been spread far and wide. King Hrothgar cannot protect his people. A noble Geat warrior comes to lend a hand to Hrothgar. Hrothgar welcomes him to Denmark and tells him of monster. His name, Beowolf. He proceeds to battle the beast with his bare hands. Will Beowolf be able to conquer Grendel?

My Thoughts –

I went into this book with a little trepidation as as I knew it was a poem and lengthy. However, Beowolf surprised me! I had heard the gist of the story though a podcast I listen to called Myths & Legends. The book goes into greater detail behind the history of these two nations as well as some back story into the Swedes. You get three epic battles that Beowolf fights.

There are many heroic characters in this tale, although this is definitely more action led with fictional history thrown in. So we don’t really see any character development per say, but we get to know them a little. First, Hrothgar, King of the Danes and son of Halfdane. He is noble and goes from the frying pan into the fire. Hrothgar is an honest man and keeps his word. He is only man still sitting in his mead hall after Grendel’s nightly attacks. Then we get Beowolf who is an extraordinary warrior and above the average man. Yet, humble. I liked Beowolf quite a bit. We spend most of the book following him as he is the hero. Lastly, King Hygelac, King of the Geats. He is a bit more reserved. He didn’t send Beowolf and actually told him not to go assist the Danes. I didn’t really care for him, but he wasn’t really a bad character.

The plot revolves around the three fights: Grendel, His mother, and the dragon. Lots of fairy tales and legends revolve around sets of threes. Of the three fights, I personally found the fight with Grendel’s mom the most interesting.

confused where are we GIF

Although really, how could a person swim underwater for half a day?? It just seemed a little absurd to me!

The dragon fight was cool too. Very Tolkienesque. I mean Tolkien did do a translation of Beowolf so he could have taken the idea of battling dragons and hidden gold. I know Tolkien was influenced by the Tale of the Volsungs.

I was surprised at how much Christianity impacted the author. There are many times where the characters prasise God or mentions creation. There is a great line about how the Almighty placed the stars. I’ll put it below. All of stories comes from the OT. No mentions of Jesus or the cross.

Quotes –

“The leader of the troop unlocked his word-hoard; the distinguished one delivered his answer” (p. 19) – this line had me laughing.

“. . .in his splendour He set the sun and the moon to be earth’s lamplight, lanterns for men” ( p. 9).

“May one so valiant and venturesome come unharmed through the clash of battle” (p. 21)

Language – None

Violence – Nothing graphic or gratuitous. Beowolf wrestles with Grendel and somehow pops his arms off. Grendel kills many Danes. His mom eats someone and beats up Beowolf. The dragon pillages and burns villages. He mortally wounds Beowolf.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Beowolf is a fascinating story filled withe feasts, battles, and wars fought. It is similar to Sir Gwain and the Green Knight. Both are poems that depict heroes. Also its shorter then I had expected. Half of my copy was in Old English so really only a little over 100 pages. More readable then I had imagined, but not something I will be rereading over and over. Did I like it? Well, I really liked sections of it.

Up Next – After Beowolf, I just finished Watcher by A. J. Everly. Now I think I’m going to give Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater a try.

Over to you guys: Have you read Beowolf? Have any favorite legends?

Anna

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Review for The Scandalous sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Genre – Coming-of-age, Mystery, England

Series – No

Rating – PG for discussions about death, poison, and murder

Age Range – Middle-grade or YA

Synopsis –

The 7 girls who attend St. Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies have been sent there to become proper young ladies. During their Sunday night supper with their headmistress Constance Plackett and her brother Mr. Godding, a queer thing takes place. Both Mrs. Plackett and Mr. Godding suddenly collapse and die at the table. So Smooth Kitty, the ringleader of the girls, hatches a plan to cover up their mysterious deaths and continue living at the school. Things begin to go awry when people begin visiting the school to celebrate Mr. Godding’s birthday. What will they do? Will the girls cave in and be forced to tell the truth? Who is the murderer behind all this?

My Thoughts –

What a fun & charming book!! Going into the book, I knew nothing about the plot and so was pleasantly surprised. It had been on my list, but I’d forgotten what led me to put it on there. I loved seeing the girls band together to try to solve the murders as well as keep the authorities at bay. Also, loved the setting – England 1890. What a fun time frame!

Each of the young ladies has a different skill set and personality. Most of the book is told from Kitty’s perspective. Personally, I liked Pocked Louise and Stout Alice much better! Seeing Stout Alice impersonate Mrs. Plackett was hilarious and I’m surprised they pulled it off for so long. πŸ™‚ Of the girls, Kitty was my least favorite. While she was good at coming up with plans, I didn’t care for how high and mighty she could be at times.

The author does a great job keeping this light and humorous, despite being a murder mystery. They are constantly coming up with stories trying to cover up the bodies they buried under a cherry tree. My descriptions make it sound worse then it is. All in all I found myself chuckling at all their antics. Berry also adds a few twists near the end that left me guessing to figure out who was the culprit.

Now there is a bit of feminism thrown in the story, which was a bit off putting.

Quotes –

“The rosy sunset made even the mud of Farmer Butt’s vast acres of meadow land blaze with heavenly glory as far as the eye could see” (p. 12).

“She who opposed my scientific interests so strenuously is now the subject of my experiment” (p. 112).

“How is it possible to forget a present? Kitty made a face at her. If you recall, we had cooling corpses on our minds at the time.” (p. 124).

Language – None

Violence – Both Mrs. Plackett and Mr. Godding are poisoned by cyanide. Then the culprit tries to murder the pretend Mrs. Plackett with cyanide again and instead kills Admiral Lockwood by mistake. Also, the murder sneaks in, poisons the dog and steals some of the the girls belongings.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

If you are in the mood for a light easy read, this is good choice. I know its MG, but as an adult I enjoyed it quite a bit. I have found that many MG authors write wonderful and intriguing books often better then some YA or adult books out there. Also, they tend to be fairly clean. Berry does a great job creating a fun mystery that is engaging and keeps you interested in the characters.

Up next – I’m finishing up Beowolf. I had listened to a podcast that told the outline to the story and made me curious to read it myself. So far halfway through and liking it. After that I’m not sure.

How is your May going? What have you been reading? Do you enjoy Middle-Grade fiction?

Anna

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Review for I, Robot

I, Robot (Robot, #0.1)

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Genre – Science fiction, Futuristic,

Series – 1st book in the Robot series

Age Range – Adult

Rating – PG for mild language

Synopsis –

To start, this is a collection of short stories about how robots become progressively smarter then humans & just how do humans fit in this technological world. It’s seen through the lens of Dr. Susan Calvin who specializes in robot sciences. She is looking back at her life and is telling a reporter various incidents that either sparked better robots or led to their demise.

My Thoughts –

Well, I can now say I read this one. I hadn’t really read any science fiction with robots in it before, so I, Robot was my first. It was shorter then I had imagined, but fit the way the author wrote it. Each chapter focuses on a different robot and there are really only a few characters that routinely pop in and out.

Of the few characters that are in there, I really only somewhat liked Greg Powell & Mike Donovan. They had some humor to the few stories they are in. They make quite the duo. When trying to figure out what is wrong with Speedy, a robot to help them collect materials on Mars, they brainstorm different ideas. Eventually doing a sneaky approach to the 3 Robot laws to get Speedy back. I really didn’t care for Susan Calvin though. Maybe cause, of my worldview, I don’t agree with robots taking over human society and ruling over us. I just got really annoyed with her love for all things robot.

Of the short stories, I have to say the first one with Robbie was one of my favorites. He was a simple non-speaking robots who was a nurse maid to girl named Gloria. She spent a lot of time with him. Loved her dad and his clever plan to get Robbie back.

Despite my disagreement with some of Asimov’s ideas, he was a master storyteller. He knew how to keep the reader interest and wrote in an engaging way. I was surprised that I liked it more then I had thought I would. Each story involves a crisis caused or involving a robot that the characters have to resolve which became more complex as the robots got more upgrades and such.

Quote:

“We have: one, a robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human to come to harm” (p. 37).

Violence – None

Language – Infrequent mild language used by the human characters.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Honestly, it was odd, but not horrible. I found it interesting that he gave the robots 3 rules that must be obeyed. Each one revolved around protecting humans or the robot from destruction. Being a Christian, I didn’t necessarily agree with some of the character’s choices and the whole thing against those who don’t trust robots. Kind of scary cause I can see us in the not so distant future using more AI technology.

Side Note – I also finished Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han. A good conclusion to the trilogy.

Up next – I will finish up The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place which I am thoroughly enjoying!!

What have you been reading lately? Happy May!

Anna

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Two YA fiction Books I’ve Finished

So, after Ender’s Game, I wanted something light and breezy. These two books were a nice break from heavy topics and were just what I needed. I had seen the first two movies in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. So wanted to give it a try. Now, normally I don’t read romance novels as they seem to be so formulaic and boring. I finished To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before first so I’ll talk about that one and move to The False Prince.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Genre – Romance, YA, Growing-up

Series – First book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy

Rating – PG-13 for innuendo and language

Synopsis –

The three Song girls were supposed to stay together forever. Yet, when Margot the oldest Song girl leaves for college in Scotland, Laura Jean feels devastated. After losing their mom at a young age, the three sisters – Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty form a close bond. So, after Margot’s move Lara Jean decides to try her best to fill Margot’s shoes. Unfortunately, someone sends out her secret love letters that she has kept hidden in a box for years. This causes her life at school to tilt on its axis. What will she do?

My Thoughts –

I enjoyed the movie and thought it was cute. I have seen this book pop up on several blogs and was curious just closely the movie followed it. In between work I wolfed the book down in four days. There were parts of the book that I truly liked better then the movie – All the baking, Kitty, Margot’s relationship with her sisters, their dad.

To be honest, I feel a lot like Lara Jean at times. She is a homebody who is close to her sisters and does well at school. I loved how the author incorporated cooking throughout the book. Lara Jean made some amazing sounding cookies and cupcakes. Made me hungry just reading it. However she could be naive and very dreamy at times. She reminded me a bit of Anne from Anne from Green Gables. Where she has these high expectations of having a boyfriend, only to find it isn’t quite what she expected.

Kitty was hilarious and totally the baby of the family. I loved how supportive their dad was and wanting to be apart of their lives. So many YA books showcase poor parenting, and nice to see a strong dad character. I didn’t really care for Josh, he seemed nice, but more for Margot then Lara Jean. Peter was a bit of a toss up. There were times when I really liked him and how he treated Kitty kindly, but other times Peter was very insecure which bothered me.

Favorite Quote – “I’m a betrayer of the worse kind, because I’m betraying my own sister, and there’s no greater betrayal then that.”

Content – Lara Jean mentions at one point how she and Margot were waiting to do it, until they were older or married. However there is talk at school at her school about who is having sex with who. No descriptions though. Lara Jean asks Margot some questions about it later on. Lara Jean kisses Peter in a hot tub. As well as mild language used throughout, with three occasions of strong language.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Genre – Fantasy, YA, Coming of Age

Rating – PG – for mild sword duel violence

Synopsis –

In the land of Carthya, civil war is about to erupt after the king, queen, and princes death. So one of the regents comes up with a plan to stick a false prince upon the throne. He collects four orphans to train and teach how to be royalty. The only problem, Sage has no wish to be a prince. He is a poor orphan who loves his freedom. Conner meanwhile has plan to break Sage and the others down to do his will. If they don’t become the prince, he will kill them. Sage must make a choice to either obey Conner and save his life, but lose the freedom he holds so dear or disobey and lose his life.

My Thoughts –

Honestly, it was an interesting premise, however it was a bit slow and predictable. I love fantasy and wanted to give this one a chance. It did pick up a bit toward the end and resolved well. I kinda saw the surprise at the end coming though.

At the start Sage got on my nerves for his resistance of authority, but later I came to understand where he was coming from. He did grow on me. I liked Rohen, Imogen, and Mott. Mott being my favorite. He was the only one who saw through Sage’s facade and showed some kindness to the boys. I had difficulty figuring out where Conner stood whether he was evil or just a flawed character. I was impressed at how Imogen was able to pretend to be mute.

Really, the one complaint I have with the author, was how she told us everything as opposed to showing us. I mean we had to tell us all the details of just how Jaron survived. I wished she could have done it more subtly. Wasn’t bad, pretty decent, but not the best either.

Content – one character is shot with an arrow and dies, several sword fights, Sage gets sliced by sword, and beaten by Conner with a whip.

Conclusion –

I’ve been trying to keep my reading up although at times, it feels like I’m forcing myself to keep going. Thankfully, these two books were light and breezy enough, they were just what I needed!! I liked both in different ways and glad I gave them go.

Up Next – I’ll be trying I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, although honestly, not super excited for this. πŸ™‚ Then I’ll finish the TAtBILB series with Always and Forever.

Over to you guys, what have you been reading recently? Have you read either of these books? Hope your spring is going well!

Anna

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Review for Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Genre – Military, Science-fiction, Psychological warfare,

Series – 1st book in the Ender Quintet

Rating – PG-13 for war violence, space battles, & language

Synopsis –

Ender is just a 6 year old kid when he taken from his parents and 2 siblings to live at Battle School. They told him that by doing so he would change the world. Ender had no choice really, it was either stay and be tormented by Peter his older brother or embark on a strange intergalactic journey. However Battle School is no bed of roses and not for the weak. The adult leader push Ender to his limit training him to be a military genius. Will Ender continue on this path? Or will he defy the leaders to become his own person?

My Thoughts –

Hmm, this was a complex story and I feel like there are a couple layers to it. Typically I really enjoy sci-fi, and there were parts of this story that were fascinating. But . . . some of it was just odd and I didn’t really care for it.

First off, this was unique, training children for war? I mean I’ve never read anything like that before, yet it felt accessible and readable. It wasn’t over the top descriptions of tech or much discussion of other world. From what I’ve read it sounds like this was the authors first novel and paved the way for his more complex book Speaker of the Dead which continues Ender’s story.

Did I like the characters? Yes, and no! All the adults were so manipulative even Graff who was somewhat sympathetic toward Ender, really was the conniving and deceptive. *Spoiler Alert * He did not tell Ender that he was really fighting these battles and killing off the Bugger population which made me angry. Ender now has to live with this guilt for the rest of his life. *End of Spoiler*

arthur wtf GIF

There were times when I really felt sorry for Ender they basically turned him into a killing machine. I wonder how different would his life have been if he had turned down battle school. I did like how the author placed us in Ender’s head. We could see his emotional struggles with isolation and trying now to become his brother. His classmates at Battle School were interesting, but we didn’t really get to know them all that well. Peter was horrid, then his whole scheme to take over the world. Ugh, didn’t like that. The one other character I liked was Valentine, Ender’s sister. She faced some tough decisions as well. Through it all she always loved him and wanted to keep him safe.

Plot wise I liked the training at Battle School and how we see Ender grow as a leader and thinks outside the box. The whole no gravity during battles was cool. The one complaint I have is it takes about 80% of the book to actually get out of Battle School and the whole war is concluded rather rapidly. Not really sure what I think about the end though. Finding the egg just odd.

Not really many favorite quotes, but here’s 2:

“If you can’t, Ender, nobody could. If you can’t beat them, then they deserve to win because they’re stronger & better then us.” P. (282).

“If you try & lose then it isn’t your fault. But if you don’t try and we lose, then it’s all your fault.” P. (282).

Language – I’d say frequent language mostly mild, with some instances of rougher language.

Violence – Ender studies video footage of previous battles trying to figure out what really happened. He sees how the Buggers fight and died. So there are two instances where Ender is being bullied. He finally has enough and though he doesn’t know it, he kills both bullies. We find out after the fact. One was for self-defense though. Then Ender does these simulation battles that turn out to be real. He defeats the Bugger army and kills all of them by destroying home planet.

Innuendo – Ok, so the author for some reason tells us that the children at Battle School go naked. Not like super often, but it is mentioned several times. Usually when they run out of time to change before practice. Also, one of the fight scenes takes place in the bathroom while Ender is showering so both guys are naked. Didn’t really care for this. Although no genitals ever mentioned just fact that they aren’t wearing clothes.

Conclusion –

Well, I can’t really say that I loved this one. Still trying to figure out if I liked it. πŸ˜‰ It kinda reminded me of Maze Runner a little bit. Bunch of boys trapped/training in odd environment. I’ve been trying to branch out more with my books. It was interesting and that all I have to say. Will probably watch movie just to see what they do with story.

Up Next – I’ll finish To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. So far, enjoying it more then movie!

Then I’ll give I, Robot a try.

So, have you read any of the Ender books? Do you enjoy science fiction? What are some of your favorites?

Anna

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Review for Merlin

Merlin by Stephan Lawhead

Genre – Christian, Fantasy, Historical fiction

Series – 2nd book in The Pendragon Cycle

Rating – PG-13 for violent battles

Well folks it took me a wee bit, but just finished Merlin! Let’s just say I really enjoyed this book!! Last summer I read Taliesin which surprised me. You can see my thoughts here – Review for Taliesin

Excited Season 2 GIF by The Office

As I’ve talked about before, legends, particularly Robin Hood and Arthur, are really intriguing and speak to me. I love the quests and adventures and how that changes them. Recently, I’ve been in the mood to continue this series. Overall, I liked Merlin more then Taliesin. Being able to hear his thoughts helped a lot!

Synopsis –

Merlin was born to two parents of noble lineage. His mom Charis, a lost princess of Atlantis who came to Britain seeking refuge. She married Taliesin a Bard who became a king to his people. Because of this, Merlin was well taught in everything from sword craft to the art of a Bard. Hafgan and Dyfed, and Blaise teach the young lad everything they know. Especially when it comes to Jesu who is The Great Light. In his 12th year Merlin is captured by Hill folk and separated from all he holds dear. What will he do? Will he find his purpose in life?

My Thoughts –

So far this series has taken a different take on the Arthurian legends. It has more Celtic roots with a dash of fantasy thrown in for good measure. To me the characters in Merlin were an upgrade. We can see their thoughts and what drives them. Plus, I liked Charis as a person, she felt more down to earth and humble. Ygerna is another strong female character. Call me weird, but I did not care for Ganieda. She felt flat. Now Dyfed was fascinating. I loved seeing the shift from being a Druid to Christianity. Dyfed really stood up for the truth and had an impact on Merlin’s life.

I really enjoyed getting to see a young Merlin. So often we see the tail end of his life with setting up Arthur. The only other place I’ve seen him young is in show The Adventures of Merlin which I love!! His path in life wondered a bit, which seemed realistic to me. He honestly had no clue what to do with his life. Although I was kinda surprised Lawhead made him a king. I loved the qualities that he gave Merlin, of being an upright and truthful young man.

For this particular book the plot meandered and was a slow burn. I truly didn’t mind that when you did have action it moved along quickly. The whole battle in slow motion was cool reminded me of Alistair Coldhollow’s ability from The Mydrian Constellation series. Personally, I loved the Celtic angle with all the kings of their own slice of land and then seeing the progression to having one British High King. There were times when I wanted the plot to move closer to the legend, but I got used to it.

Lawhead did something unique and almost entirely removed magic from the tale. Instead Merlin has visions, does miracles, along with a slow-mo fighting ability. There is a small dose of magic with the Hill Folk, but its not the spell or incantation kind. I didn’t really like the Fhain/Hill folk, but they valued their children more then gold which was neat. Also, we see Druid beliefs and how Christianity impacts and changes the Druid ways.

Overall there are many Christian themes and beliefs woven throughout. Several of the characters follow Jesu or Christus as they call him. We hear some of Merlin’s prayers as he asks for guidance. Several of the Druids convert to Christianity and they become priests and Bishops. We hear the gospel preached at a service.

I wanted to add a new section for favorite quotes:

“Wisdom will be given when wisdom is required, courage when courage is required. All things are given in their season” (p. 35).

“The body knows it is dust, and will return to dust in the end, and it grieves for itself. The spirit, however knows itself to be eternal and glories in this knowledge” (p. 134).

“Darkness has no power over light, and no power on earth can move me if I do not wish to be moved” (p. 259).

Language – Occasional uses of a certain word although typically used in its proper form. Also, a demon swears.

Violence – There are only a handful of battles, but one in particular got a bit gruesome. There is a surprise ambush and only a small force to defend the land. Ganieda is violently killed with multiple stab wounds and they killed her unborn baby and see a blue finger sticking out. Merlin then goes on killing spree and kills many Saecsen barbarians. We are told bodies lie all around and the river turned crimson. Later on, a few characters are poisoned and killed.

Innuendo – Merlin and Ganieda get married. They prepare for their wedding night and lie in each others arms. Thankfully that’s the extent of it. Two brothers fall for the same women and false rumors spread about her.

Conclusion –

Merlin was the perfect mix of fantasy with historical fact. Ancient Britain is a fascinating place filled with warlords and invading barbarians. You have noble kings who stand for what is right and a receding Roman empire about to crumble. A young man goes on a journey to find his purpose in life and ends up uniting a tattered kingdom. This book was a perfect way to spend my spring break! Definitely not a book you will finish in one sitting, but I highly recommend it if you love legends.

Up Next – I’ll be starting Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, its been a while since I’ve read sci-fi.

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The Inheritance Games Vs. Truly, Devious

First, in this post I wanted to compare two YA mysteries that I recently finished and discuss which one I preferred. I’ll give a little background for each book. Let’s get started!

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Barnes

Genre – Family Drama, Mystery, Adventure

Series – 1st book in The Inheritance Games series

Rating – In between a solid PG and a soft PG-13

Synopsis –

Avery Grambs is normal teenager who is just trying to make it through high school. After her mom passed away, she moved in with her step-sister, Libby. One day while busy with classes, she is called to the office. There a handsome young man who tells Avery that she is named in Tobias Hawthorne ‘s will. A wealthy man who Avery didn’t even know existed. Upon arrival at his mansion, she finds she isn’t the only one eager to hear the will. Tobias had two daughters & four grandsons, Nash, Grayson, Jameson, & Alexander. These brothers don’t take kindly to a stranger waltzing in stealing their fortune. Will Avery figure out why her name is in the will?

My Thoughts –

I’ll briefly go over what I thought of The Inheritance Games before moving on to the next one. I liked Avery quite a bit, she wasn’t the typical rebellious teenager, she had some grit to her. Her dream to travel the world was sweet as she was inspired by her mom. Now Libby on the other hand, while compassionate, was so annoying. I just kept asking why Libby, why would you do that?? Jameson also was a bit of a jerk at times and I just didn’t care for him. I loved Oren the security guard. He is definitely someone who you want on your side. Grayson and Xander were funny and took a little getting used too.

I feel like the plot balanced character growth with action and the plot moving forward. The mystery surrounding Tobias Hawthorne was intriguing. Loved the hidden clues and how Hawthorne wanted his family to work together. Now that I look at it kinda similar to The Ultimate Gift movie. It was a book that I enjoyed and didn’t want to put down.

Content – Mild occasional language, some kissing. A brief mention of a dead character character being lesbian

Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson

Genre – Mystery, Coming of Age,

Series – 1st book in the Truly Devious series

Rating – PG-13 for swearing and innuendo

Synopsis –

Stevie Bell is a true crime fanatic. She loves mysteries and has read all the classics. After convincing her parents that Ellingham Academy is the place for her, she arrives at this isolated school in the mountains. She then sets out on a journey to solve an actual crime that happened there back in 1936. Albert Ellingham founded this academy as a free school to the brightest minds. In 1935 he, his wife Iris, and daughter Alice create their mansion and Academy. Then the unexpected happens Alice and Iris are kidnapped. Ellingham tries everything he can to save them, yet the ransom money is not enough. Later it is found that his wife was dead. Will Stevie be able to put the pieces together to solve this cold case?

My Thoughts –

Hmm, I’m trying to get my thoughts in order. First, I really didn’t care for Stevie or her friend Janelle. Almost all the kids at Ellingham are kinda horrid. The only one I even somewhat connected to was the writer kid Nate. Stevie was very proud of how much she knew about the case and how smart she is which got repetitive and grating. Also, I could tell David was lying and a bad influence from miles away.

I did listen to this as an audiobook. Let’s just say I didn’t care for the narrator. She could not do different voices so all the guy voices really run together and made it hard to distinguish who was who. So, that might have been the problem.

Ok, so I liked the the Ellingham case in the 30’s that mystery was interesting, but the modern mystery of Hayes’s death, ick, boring. Also, the flashbacks/flash forwards were done at odd times. I would have preferred the setting be just one time frame. I was hoping that by the end we would find out who the culprit was behind the Devious letter, but nope. Honestly, Stevie doesn’t find out anything new until like the last page.

Content – The teens swear and have a make-out session. Also there are two lesbian characters which felt a little much.

Now I’ll compare the two. Both books have a female lead who is out to solve a crime/mystery. I feel like Avery is a more flushed out character and I liked her a whole lot better then Stevie. Stevie was stuck up and had a hatred for her parents which I didn’t care for. Also, the supporting characters were better in The Inheritance games. I did like Nate in Truly, Devious, but he didn’t get much page time. Xander’s thoughts on scone eating had me laughing. Overall, the best characters goes to The Inheritance Games. Also, why did both authors have stick in lesbian characters? In my opinion we can write quality books without sticking stuff like that in.

Comparing the setting between the two, Truly, Devious had a more dark, ominous tone that was very like a classic noir film. I found it funny that both took place at rich schools or with wealthy individuals. While the mystery in The Inheritance Games felt more lighthearted and National Treasure like. Both were intriguing and both left on a bit of a cliffhanger with unanswered questions. Now I don’t mind unanswered questions, I mean Lost is one of my favorite shows, but I wish the authors could have given us a bit more to go on.

Conclusion –

As you can probably tell, I liked The Inheritance Games a whole lot better! Hands down. Now is it my favorite YA book, no. I feel like there are others that have a better mystery and a wee bit better written. Although I could see this making an interesting movie.

Now over to you! Have you read either of these two books? Do you have a favorite YA book?

Up next – I’m reading Merlin by Stephan Lawhead. Felt in the mood for more Arthurian Legend. πŸ˜‰

Anna

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Review for Greenwillow

Greenwillow by B. J. Chute

Genre – Romance, Village Life, Cozy

Series – No

Rating – G – Pretty clean

Synopsis –

Welcome to Greenwillow, where things tend to stay the same. Until an unwanted preacher comes claiming to be from the Bishop. Greenwillow is unsure how to handle this as they already have a preacher. They eventually settle for holding 2 services on Sunday due to their different preaching styles. Then we meet the Briggs family whose father/husband left them to go wandering When the Amos Briggs returns, both preachers go trying to convince him to stay. Gideon the oldest Brigg child, fears for his call to wander as he loves working the farm. Dorrie is a nearby adopted orphan who supports Gideon and wishes that his call won’t come.

My Thoughts –

To start this year has been a great year for audiobooks! I had this on my 2021 list and was surprised they had Greenwillow as its a bit older. I found this audiobook quaint and charming. The narrator is wonderful and did unique voices for each character which I appreciated!

Throughout the book, Chute creates some beautiful and lyrical descriptions whether it be discussing the Meander river or Dorrie’s tarts. It’s done in a way that makes you want to visit the village of Greenwillow. It follows this village through all the seasons which was neat to see.

This is a very character driven novel that shows their everyday life. For me the characters felt real and life-like. I connected with Dorrie and her life at Miss Madie and Miss Emma’s house. She is a soft spoken character who shows kindness wherever she goes. Of the Briggs family, Micah was my favorite. Quite the bubbly personality and very curious! I chuckled at granny’s antics with her turnip and tramping through the snow to save their cow. The two reverends got on my nerves, not sure if it was their bickering or something else.

The plot takes it time to develop, kinda wanders as we are introduced to the cast of characters. If you are looking for something fast paced or with action, this isn’t it. Nothing really out of the ordinary occurs, which was pleasant. Reminded me of the Miford books by Jan Karon.

The theological elements of the book were kinda odd. The two preachers -Lapp & Birdsong held vastly different views. Lapp preached about hell and needing to repent or the devil will catch you, while Birdsong took the everyone is happy and saved approach. I so wanted a bit about being saved by grace and the works of Christ, but mostly focus is on works. I think their Catholic We did see a turnaround at the end, but didn’t feel quite right.

Language – None

Violence – None

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Greenwillow takes you back in time before technology and the internet. Where a villagers find a lost pig big news and a cow being born a proud accomplishment. I’d highly recommend this one!! Especially if you are looking for a change in pace!

Up Next – Finishing up The Power of One, which is our Church’s book club pick and The Inheritance Games.

How is your spring going? What have you been reading/listening too? Have you heard of Greenwillow?

Anna

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Review for Mawson’s Will

Mawson’s Will – The Greatest Survival Story Ever Written

by Lennard Bickel

Genre – Nonfiction, Exploration, Survival

Series – Standalone

Rating – PG-13 for survival related violence

Synopsis –

Dr. Douglas Mawson had been to Antarctica once before on the 1908 expedition to Mt. Erebus. This light a fire in Mawson who yearns to return to the inhospitable continent. He seeks the help of Shackleton, but Shackleton has no interest in exploring west of Cape Adare. So, Mawson assembles his own team which became known as the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. By December of 1911, Mawson emerged at the coast of Antarctica. He divided his crew into 2 groups, one captained by Frank wild who would endeavor to reach the magnetic south pole, the other by Mawson that would explore West. What ensues is an epic story of survival and exploration of Antarctica.

My Thoughts –

Survival stories fascinate me! Being lone in a wilderness and coping with whatever weather is thrown your way is an accomplishment in itself. Let alone going to the coldest continent. Mawson shows the meaning of courage, bravery, & resilience! Before reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Antarctica. So I loved learning about its climate and changes in weather. The one thing I wish the book had was a map of Mawson’s travels. Thankfully, there is one on the internet that proved helpful and I referred to quite a bit.

Personally I don’t think I would have what it takes to live there for over 2 years. Some of the wind gusts were over 90 mph! In Antarctica’s winter it could get down to 60 degrees below freezing. Which first off, I didn’t know Antarctica could have a winter, figured it was winter year round, which isn’t far from true. It’s winter is the stormy/wind season. Gets the most snowfall.

Anyways, the story really picks up once Mawson sets out on his march across Antarctica. Before that, there’s lots of going over who’s who in the world of exploration. They spent almost 11 months in their hut before being able to travel. I loved how inventive Mawson and his men were. If they didn’t have something, they’d try to make it. Or if a tent piece broke they’d find a way to fix it. They brought everything they needed from the boat and made do.

I was surprised at how often Mawson mentions his faith or at least his belief in Providence. He has a hymnbook he reads from on several occasions as well as prayers he says for their journey/funerals. As well as quoting scripture on occasion. He questions why God would take away one of his companions.

Now was it the greatest survival story as the name implies? I’m not so sure. I’ve read a variety of survival stories from Unbroken to We Die Alone. They each have their own incredible tale. Was Mawson’s survival surprising? Yes! I mean after eating such a high level of vitamin A, he should be dead. The whole overdosing on Vitamin A was really interesting. And truly made me feel sorry for Mertz! Only by the hand of the Almighty did Mawson live to tell his story.

Language – None, at least none that I remember

Violence – Okay, so here is where it can get a little grisly. * Spoilers ahead * So Ninnis dies by falling into a crevasse taking most of the food stores with him. This causes Mawson and Mertz to rely on the huskies livers. Now they only killed them when the dog was on it’s last legs. But yeah, they talk about shooting or killing them. Mawson then would chop the carcass up and turn it into jelly. Now Mawson did treat these animals with the greatest respect. Also, we see the affects caused by high levels of vitamin A. Mawson’s soles fall off, his fingers nails nails are in bad shape and mentions of sores all across his body. So not for the faint of heart.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Mawson’s lone trek to civilization is incredible. Just goes to show that our human body is amazingly designed! It made me appreciate living on a continent that has people. Reading this book, made me want to see Antarctica. It’s not the best book ever written, but I enjoyed it!

Up Next – I’m working on another survival story set in the Peruvian Andes called Touching the Void by Joe Simpson.

Do you enjoy a good survival tale? Have any favorites?

Anna

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Review for Hood

Hood by Stephan Lawhead

Genre – Historical fiction, Legend, Retelling

Series – 1st in the King Raven Trilogy

Rating – PG -13 for battles, violence and innuendo

Synopsis –

Bran ap Brychan is royalty. The sole heir to the land of Elfael, a small kingdom in Wales. More then anything, Bran wishes to remain free from the burden of kingship. He’d prefer to spend his days wooing Marian. Elfael although small, is the first line of defense for the Welsh people against the Norman invasion. Many of the leading Lords have given up the fight including Marian’s father, Lord Cadwgan, who has joined forces with the Norman Baron Neufmarche. After his father’s death, Bran faces a choice: stand and fight for his people or flee to the north. But whom can he trust?

My Thoughts –

To start, I love legends, especially medieval ones like Robin Hood or King Arthur. Something about them sparks my imagination and makes me wish I could join them in their quests. I’ve mentioned my fondness for the Arthurian legend before and reviewed several different versions. I read Hood many years ago and had forgotten most of the plot. Upon finding it at a local bookstore, I eagerly bought it to reread.

Lawhead does an interesting thing with this particular legend and takes it completely out of Sherwood Forest. Instead, he places Robin in Wales. It works really well!! It gives Bran a reason to fight against the Normans or Ffreinc as they are called. He keeps some of the famous characters like Little John or Friar Tuck, but changes them up a little.

Bran goes on quite the journey. At the start, he is a stuck up prince who gets everything he wants to becoming the leader of his abandoned people. I like Bran for the most part. His character reminds me a lot of the BBC’s version of Robin Hood. Angharad the bard is an intriguing character to say the least. She is a believer in the one true God who uses her knowledge to awake Bran’s heart. I also like Tuck aka Brother Ffreol. Merian’s character is a little weak to me, but maybe that’s just cause it’s the first book.

The plot moves slowly at first, taking it time to build this medieval world around us. There is quite a bit of politics woven throughout which can be confusing at times. There are so many Barons with similar names, it’s tricky keeping them all straight. Despite all this, the end picks up a bit as we see things start to come together. Just be patient!

The setting is beautiful. We have the rolling hill country of Elfael with farmers and crops. Then we get the marsh and the forest Coed Cadw. It’s very picturesque and makes me want to visit Wales.

Since this is medieval Britain there are Bishops, Priests, and Friars. Some are in it for the money and portrayed as greedy. Others like Brother Ffreol & Bishop Asaph seem devote. We see several characters pray throughout or mention God. Although its a bit murky where they actually sit in their faith.

Language – There is occasional uses of mild language. Not much though.

Violence – In the first few chapters we have a battle in which many of Bran’s countrymen are killed. It is described as covering the fields with blood. We see corpses. Several characters are seriously injured by arrows or stabbed. Later Baron de Brose tries to hunt and kill Bran. Bran eventually fights back by stealing animals & leaving the entrails to frighten the Ffreinc soldiers. He hangs dead mice and other small animals from trees as well.

Innuendo – Bran flirts with Marian and kisses her, hoping for more. But it is made clear that he has not done it yet. Merian ends up pushing Bran away and doesn’t really seem interested in him. Later, Baron Neufmarche takes a shine to Merian, despite being married.

Conclusion –

Lawhead takes an interesting spin on the legend of Robin Hood. I remember loving these books years ago and am glad I got a chance to visit Hood again! I remember the other two books only vaguely. If you enjoy legends, I would highly recommend this one! While having a slower pace, Hood takes you back to time of knights and swords.

Up next – I’ll be reading Mawson’s Will – The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written by Lennard Bickel.

Do you enjoy legends? How about Robin Hood? What have you been reading lately?

Cannot wait to hear your thoughts!!

Anna

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We Love Pirates Tag

Ahoy there, me hearties!! We are going to embark on a post celebrating pirates. Hamlette is hosting a whole week devoted to pirates!! So, I thought I’d join by doing the tag. I mean who doesn’t love pirates! You can check out the prizes and tag here – https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2021/02/we-love-pirates-week-party-kick-off-and.html.

Let’s set sail!

The Dawn Treader

1.  What are your favorite pirate movies or books?

So many to pick from!! First, my favorite pirate book ever is Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson. Its amazing and includes everything from a pirate who wants to retire to monks who hid an ancient treasure. Treasure Island is another favorite. As for movies, I have two: Hornblower & the first PotC Curse of the Black Pearl. They are almost complete opposites of each other. πŸ˜‰ Princess Bride being a runner up.

2.  Who are your favorite fictional pirates?

Declan Rose from the Isle of Swords. He looks out for his family while combing the seas for his enemy. Also, Fin Button from The Fiddler’s Gun. She is brave and is able to pull off quite the disguise! I’m also gonna throw in Edmond Dantes. He has a stint as a pirate while hiding his newly found treasure. Wesley was also an interesting pirate.

3.  What do you like best about pirate stories? (Themes, costumes, aesthetic, etc.) Hmm, good question. All of the above I suppose, (mentally said that in Bilbo’s voice). Although, I love the themes the most! Betrayal, Honor, Loyalty. Good stuff!! Aesthetics can be really cool too.

4.  If you were going to play a pirate on the stage or screen, what would your costume look like?

To start, I’d need a pair of breeches with short ankle length books, preferably black & a hidden knife. Then maybe a loose fitting white shirt with a scabbard & belt of some kind including. To finish a coral necklace and a bandana.

5.  What pirate ship would you like to serve on? The William Wallace for sure!! As it would be an honor to serve on Ross’s crew. I’d want a captain who ran a tight ship, yet showed kindness when needed. Although serving on the HMS Indefatigable hunting pirates, might also be fun.

6.  Any favorite sea shanties or pirate songs? When I was little, I loved “The Pirates who Don’t Do Anything” song and that’s about it.

7.  Have you ever participated in International Talk Like a Pirate Day? No, cannot say I have.

8.  Would you like to go sailing on a real tall ship? Yes, I’d love to go sail around the world. I’ve only been on a boat maybe twice, but it seemed very relaxing to me. So why not take on a big ship! Not sure if I’d be brave enough to climb the rigging though. πŸ˜‰

9.  Have you ever learned anything about real pirates, or do you tend to stick to the fictional kind? Mostly stick to fictional pirates.

10.  Why is the rum gone? Hmm, well I was supposed to guard it, but fell asleep and woke up to the rum being gone. I guess now I better go hunt for the rum or face the wrath of my superior. Wouldn’t want them thinking I’d stolen it.

Well that’s it folks! Hope you enjoyed that tag! And thanks to Hamlette for hosting!!

Anna

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Review for A Curious Incident

A Curious Incident: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by [Vicki Delany]

A Curious Incident by Vicki Delany

Genre – Cozy Mystery, Contemporary

Series – The 6th book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries series

Rating – PG for mentions of marital affairs & murder

Synopsis –

Gemma Doyle and her friend Jayne Wilson work together to run a bookshop and tearoom in a quaint New England town. During their busiest season, 11 year old Lauren comes in asking if Gemma could solve the case of her missing cat. Upon finding the lost cat, she wins the Lauren’s trust. A few days later, Lauren, comes in with a trickier task – proving her mom innocence in a murder investigation. Lauren’s mom, Sheila, is an avid gardener. Recently someone vandalized her garden. People assume she took out her frustration by killing her gardener rival Anna Wentworth. Will Gemma be able to get to the bottom of the case?

My Thoughts –

dule hill fist bump GIF

I’m slowly getting my reading groove back!! Whewhoo!! So, I’ve read all the book in this series so far. They are typically sweet and offer a nice reprieve from whatever I’m reading at the moment. Plus who doesn’t love a Sherlock Holmes themed bookshop?? That being said, this one felt a little lacking. The last one, There’s a Murder Afoot was set in London was well done. It shook things up and focused more on Gemma’s family. While here we were back to the same old routine.

I do have to say that I like these characters… for the most part. πŸ˜‰ Gemma is likeable although at times a bit frustrating. Jayne is sweet and a good friend. I did like that the author added Lauren into the mix. She seemed to fit in. Ryan is the faithful police detective/boyfriend. I like Gemma and Ryan together and kinda hoping they tie the knot soon. While Uncle Arthur still elusive as ever. I liked that Jayne is now friends with Andy. Although I’m not sure how many books are supposed to be in the series?

The mystery as a whole was kind bland. The author has settled into a formulaic plot, someone outside Gemma’s circle killed, she sneaks onto site, does her own investigation, meets suspects, almost hurt, & then she solves the case. Gemma being able to leave her store anytime she wants also feels a little contrived at times. I actually guessed who the murderer was before Gemma. Yea, for me!! Doesn’t happen a lot. I guess, I just wanted something a little different. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few parts that had me guessing. Just this particular one not my cup of tea. πŸ˜‰

Was it my favorite in the series? No

Will I keep reading the series? Probably, I mean the whole surprise at end will definitely disrupt the usual routine. And I kinda want to see how the author uses it.

Violence – Pretty sparse. Overall, the author keeps it clean. We find out that Anna was killed by being hit by a rock, but happens off the page. Gemma trips in woods falls and bumps her head. Someone attempts to poison Gemma, but instead poisons Jayne.

Language – None

Innuendo – The main suspect’s marriage is on the rocks. She flirts with her friend’s gardener. At the end, she pulls her act together and her and her husband try to save their marriage. There are a few other affairs mentioned that get kinda tangled. The author keeps the details off the page so we know what’s going on, but not in detail. Also, there are rumors of affairs that turn out to be unfounded.

Conclusion –

I love bookstores in general, so finding a fun cozy mystery series set in a bookshop was a nice find. Plus, I read just about anything related to Sherlock Holmes. πŸ˜‰ Overall, I like this series. Certain ones I like better then others, but it’s nice that the author keeps it relatively clean. Reading this book, has made me want to visit the New England area! It sounds so picturesque.

Up next – I’ll be finishing up Hood. I kinda put it on the back burner while I finished The Count of Monte Cristo.

How about you? Do you like cozy mysteries? What’s your favorite?

Anna

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Review for The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Genre – Adventure, Historical, Suspense, Romance

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for violence, death, and an affair

Synopsis –

Edmund Dantes is a young sailor returning from a fated voyage. He is brimming with joy as he has his father, a future as captain of the Pharaon, and is engaged to his beautiful fiance, Mercedes. He does not realize the dark turn of events that will change his life forever. Three men sit at an outdoor cafe create an anonymous note that paints Dantes in a dangerous light. Their names are Fernand, Danglars, & Caderousse. At his betrothal feast, he is put under arrest for being in possession of a Bonapartist letter. Despite his innocence, the deputy crown prosecutor finds his letter which betrays his father’s Bonapartist allegiance and covers it up by sending Dante to prison. Dante is in prison for 14 years. Will he find an escape? What will become of three men who sent an innocent man to his doom?

My Thoughts –

mr bean GIF

I’m back!! Sorry about my long absence!! I feel like it’s been forever sense I have written a post! Let’s just say life has been busy. πŸ˜‰ Plus, it took me a while to actually finish this book. Was it worth the several weeks it took?? Absolutely!!! I loved going back and rereading this classic. There were sections of the plot that I had vaguely remembered and others that felt completely new to me. Anyway, here I am and I’m going to put down my thoughts.

To start this is a massive book!! My copy is 1,243 pages. I believe War and Peace was just a tad longer, but not by much. Which is kinda funny cause The Count of Monte Cristo picks up only a few years in history after War & Peace . πŸ˜‰ There are many subplots woven throughout and affect the main plot in intricate ways. Yet, they all come together and it eventually makes sense why we had all these odd sections of the story. Trust me on this! It does pay off, massively! Real quickly, there are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read it yet tread carefully!

Now, with a such a large book, you would except lots of characters. And there you are right!! There is a ton of characters some from the days when Dante was a young lad, who come back after his escape. Others seem to be completely new *cough* Albert and Franz, looking at you. Dumas does tend to help the reader out by reminding us occasionally who everyone is which is handy. The few characters I struggled with were Albert’s bigwig friends. Who don’t play a major role, but tend to pop up every now and again.

Many of the characters you cannot help but fall in love with like the Abbe Faria, Valentine, Mercedes, Morrel & Dantes himself. I remembered liking the Abbe from my previous read and I found I liked his wit and immense knowledge of the world and languages that he passes on to Dantes. Valentine is so sweet and innocent & I love her love for her grandfather, who at first seemed kinda a scoundrel, but does grow on me. Her relationship with Morrel is an interesting romance. They have so many obstacles to overcome, and yet Morrel is patient. It’s hard to pinpoint what I like about Mercedes as she is more of a complex character who for the majority of the book sits backstage. She loves her son and has endured some tough times.

Then we come to Dantes. What a character arc he goes on!! I kinda had a love/hate relationship with him. On the one hand his friends betrayed him and married his fiance so kinda deserve his revenge. On the other Dantes becomes consumed by his revenge and at times allows the innocent to suffer. Dantes does do it with class and almost uses other characters to pull the trigger if you will. His climax at the end of the book got to me. After seeing what had occurred at the Villefort home, he is overcome with just how far he went down this path. Does have regrets with how everything happened? Yes, I believe so. We see a bit of it with how he treats Morrel. Does he get a happy ending? To an extent, yes.

And what about the villains you ask? Well, most of them I truly despised. Danglars being the worst scoundrel. Ugh, his whole family is rather atrocious.

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Fernand was second to Danglars. He actually sent the evil letter. Caderousse while despicable, wasn’t a complete goner. I had hope for him, sadly that didn’t help. Villefort was the only scoundrel you feel a bit sorry for.

I did want to briefly mention the pacing. For being an adventure novel, it starts off with quite a bang. The first 2oo pages or so move quickly and set everything in motion. Then after that we get a lull.

Season 2 Eye Roll GIF by Friends

There were a few chapters that really dragged, but the whole Roman Bandits chapter could have been completely cut. No use at all, except to give background to a minor character. Just why??

Before I finish, I did want to mention how surprised I was at how Dumas wove some philosophical and religious discussions into the book , similar to War & Peace. There is a brilliant quote during Dantes imprisonment, “God is the last refuge. Such unfortunates, who should begin with Our Lord, only come to trust in Him after exhausting all other sources of hope” (Dumas, p.131). Later, Dante truly believed he was being used by God to minister God’s vengeance. Many of the characters take to praying to God throughout the book which you just don’t see in many books these days. At the very end Dantes comes to realize that the Almighty is the only one who can hold supreme power and the ultimate judge.

Language – Mild infrequent uses of language. Mostly kept within the PG realm.

Violence – There is quite a bit of it. You have a character killed by Caderousse in cold blood for money. During an affair, Villefort tries to kill a baby, turns out someone saves the baby. Mrs. Villefort poisons several members of her family, again for money. Fernand commits suicide. Several other characters die various deaths.

Innuendo – There are two affairs that occur. The first is between Mr. Danglars & Mrs. Villefort. Theirs is pretty subtle. I missed it at first only later do you see its implications. Nothing overt though. Then you have Mrs. Danglars and Lucian Debray. Again, Dumas is subtle so you blink you’ll miss it.

Conclusion –

Honestly, it has been wonderful to read this classic again!! This is a book that I will probably return to in the future as well. There are so many good themes throughout and I picked up on different things this go around. The characters were not so cut and dry. They had depth to them. If you haven’t read this book yet, I’d highly recommend picking it up!! I am hoping to add more classics to my reading list. Any suggestions?

* Up next I will be starting a lighter read – an installment in The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series & listening to Silas Marner (a reread for me).

Have you read it? What are your thoughts? How is your winter going?

Anna

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Review for Caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Genre – Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Series – 1st book in the Caraval series

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and innuendo

Synopsis –

Scarlet and Tella have lived on their tiny island of Trisda for their whole lives due to their father’s strict rules. Scarlet is preparing for her marriage to a count, meanwhile Tella has created a scheme to escape their island for good. Scarlet is abhorred at the thought of leaving, yet with a sailor’s help, Tella’s plan works and they arrive in time for Legend’s Caraval, a wonderful game lasting 5 nights where dreams and fantasies seem to come alive. Upon arrival, the sisters are separated. Scarlet makes it her goal to win the game and save her sister, but the game becomes very real, very fast. Will Scarlet be able to tell what is real or become lost in the land of fantasy?

My Thoughts –

Well, mid-January I kinda hit a reading slump. I’ve started some longer books like The Count of Monte Cristo and Hood which has slowed me down. Not to say that I’m not enjoying these books, but it takes a good amount time to sit and become enthralled with these stories. So, I decided to try a new book and was pleasantly surprised.

I had never heard of Caraval or Stephanie Garber before reading this book. It started a bit slow as I stepped into this mysterious world. Garber has a way of sweeping you off your feet with glittering descriptions and dazzling characters that felt just a bit like The Phantom of the Opera with a secret villain/hero who invisibly pulls the strings expertly. I enjoyed the whole mystery surrounding Legend and Scarlet’s Nana.

The characters were set in a beautiful world, yet seemed to lack something. I did enjoy a few like Julian and Scarlet, but the rest seemed to fade in the background at times. I wanted to like Tella, but she got on my nerves more often then not that I came to dislike her. Although the end helped me to like her better. *note* I’ve read the second book Legendary, and still dislike Tella so not just the setting. Julian was quit the swashbuckling rogue, that eventually won me over to his side. Scarlet was my favorite! I appreciated that the author gave her flaws and that she wasn’t perfect. Yes, she wanted to save her sister, but she also became lost and indecisive on how to precede. Julian and Scarlet did make a cute couple. πŸ˜‰

Garber has a way with words and knows how to make things sparkle with color and delightful descriptions. You truly want to go visit Caraval and join the game. Yet, with all this word building, the world felt a little flat. I didn’t feel like she explained her world very well. Just sorta jumped right into the action. I wanted a little history. The plot is very action oriented and moves rapidly which makes it hard to put down.

I loved the idea of a game that takes place once a year and never in the same location twice. The actors switching roles every game was a neat little trick. Because of this, the actors couldn’t reveal certain information like who Legend is or key parts to the clues. Which lead to several actors having to lie to Scarlet about who they were. Although I didn’t appreciate all the lying that happened. We did end up seeing how lies can be harmful.

Language – Mild- maybe one or two uses of mild language, used pretty sparingly

Violence – Um, yeah, well there was violence kinda throughout. We have several characters die mostly off the page, but one that I’ll talk about later we see happen. Scarlet’s father was abusive to the girls growing up. If one disobeyed, the other sister was punished. At the beginning, we see him hit Tella. As a consequence for Scarlet trying to get a clue, she pays for it with a day of her life. She almost dies if not for Julian giving her some of his blood. Blood has power in the book. At the end, Tella falls off a tower dying instead of going to Trisda with her father. Turns out it was all it was all a plan, and through Scarlet’s love, comes back to life.

Innuendo – At the start we find Julian and Tella kissing in a cellar. Although Tella is just using him to get to Caraval and doesn’t truly care for him. Julian also was trying to orchestrate the girls coming to Caraval. Scarlet begins to fall for Julian during her stay in Caraval. There is a mix-up with their bedroom which only has one bed. Scarlet refuses to sleep in the same room as Julian. They share a passionate kiss after he saves her life.

Conclusion –

It was a frothy book filled with colors and imagination that you can almost taste. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed Caraval quite a bit and eagerly moved to the second one, (which is no where near as good as the first). The characters were flat at times, but also mysterious. For picking up a random book off a bookstore’s shelf, I enjoyed it.

Up next, I’ll be finishing Hood and continuing my reread of The Count of Monte Cristo.

Can you believe that January is almost over!? What have you been reading this month? Any fun new reads?

Anna

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Marvel Cinematic Universe Tag

I am finally getting around to participating in this Marvel Blogathon hosted by Miss Woodhouse –http://notesfromahartfieldgirl.blogspot.com/ and Winchester North Star – https://www.thewinchesternorthstar.net/2020/12/tag-of-ten-mcu-bolgathon.html. Thank you guys for hosting this!! What a fun event!! Throughout the month of January they are reviewing favorite characters, movies and superpowers. For my contribution, I will be doing the tag of ten!! Whohoo!!

Just a heads up there are spoilers throughout this post. So here we go!

1. What is Your Favorite Movie?

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Hmm, this is a hard one. I have several contenders: Doctor Strange, Endgame, & Ant-Man. Visually, Doctor Strange is stunning, both odd and cool at the same time. Plus an amazing character arc! Endgame is well the endgame. A culmination of all the movies. Ant-man is just hilarious! Well, I’m gonna say Doctor Strange just cause I feel like everyone will say Endgame.

2. What is Your Favorite Stan Lee Cameo?

Honestly, the one that made me laugh the hardest was his appearance in Captain America Civil War “Are you Tony Stank?” πŸ™‚ It’s perfect way to close an intense and emotional movie.

3. Who is Your Favorite Character from the Original Six?

It’s between Hawkeye and Captain America. Although, we don’t get much screen time with Hawkeye in movies, what we do see is that he is a wonderful father and husband. He quits being an avenger to stay home and be with them. On the battlefield he is focused and precise while also giving advice to those who need it. Cap is a stand up guy trying to do the right thing for his friends. He will have your back no matter what and will take risks if it means saving a friend in trouble * cough * looking at you Bucky.

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4. Who is Your Favorite Sidekick (characters not from the Original Six who don’t have their own movie)?

It’s got to be Luis!! He is such a funny character and supports Scott Lang albeit in a bit of an odd way. Luis goes from being a hacker/bugler to forming a security agency. I really wanted Luis to do a recap of all the movies for Endgame, but that didn’t happen.

5. What is the Funniest Moment?

There are so many funny moments throughout these movie. Hmm, oh I remember one. Get Help! Loki and Thor are having a conversation in an elevator before a battle and Thor suggests they “Let’s do Get Help.” Loki is adamantly against it. Yet, we get this is hilarious scene of Thor throwing Loki at an assailant. Priceless!!

6. Who is Your Favorite Villain?

Loki, that’s easy! He is a conflicted villain who at times you kinda feel sorry for. Then at the beginning of Infinity War we get a powerful redemptive moment with Loki and Thor. While no where near as power as Thanos, Loki has some charm.

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7. What is Your Favorite Power or Technology?

The time stone is unique and would be fun to use! I think it would be a lot of fun to travel around in time. Although, being careful about not upsetting the different realities. πŸ˜‰ So yeah, that’s my favorite.

8. What is Your Favorite Sequel (no trilogies!)?

What a hard question! Hmm, Spider-Man Far From Home is the best so far. Ned and Peter learn some life lessons and begin to grow. After Endgame, it held up quite well, & even had some surprises. Mysterio made for a pretty decent villain. Although the Spider-Man Homecoming was better in my opinion.

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9. What are Your Favorite End Credits? Or End Credit’s Scene?

Honestly, I’m drawing a blank on end credit scenes. So much for staying in the theaters, waiting patiently for such short scenes that I can’t remember . ;)I remember the scene in Doctor Strange caused more questions then answers. So I’m just going to use that one.

10. Who is Your Favorite Ship?

So, I have three! The first is not cannon with the movies. Peggy and Daniel Sousa. This is from Agent Carter a show that takes place after WW2 and we see what Peggy does after finding out Captain America supposed death. I liked their chemistry and to me it makes more sense for her to have gotten married. Like is suggested in Captain America Winter Soldier as apposed to Endgame. I know lots of people like Peggy and Cap, but I think it would have upset a whole timeline having him stay.

Also Dr. Strange and Christine! I thought they made a cute couple. Plus, what a way to come back after a break-up, almost dying.

lincoln, Marvel, and shield image

The other ship is Daisy and Lincoln from Agent’s of Shield. They worked so well together!! Ugh, so mad they killed him off, but at the same time quite a sacrifice.

Anyway, that’s my contribution to this Blogathan!! Hope you enjoyed it!!

What’s your favorite Marvel Movie? Have a favorite sidekick or ship?

Anna

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Review for Nova

Nova by Chuck Black

Genre – Christian Fiction, Fantasy, & Sci-fi

Series – 1st in The Starlore Legacy

Rating – PG – for science fiction related battles and violence

Synopsis –

Daeson Lockridge is the cousin to the prince of Jypton, Linden. Jpton has three castes: Elite, Colloquials, and Drudge (A.K.A Rayleans). The Drudge make up the whole working class who submit to the Elite’s authority. Despite being apart of the royal family, he dreams of being a becoming a topnotch pilot at the academy. Having almost finished his training, Daeson life it turned upside down when he meets Raviel, a Drudge mechtech. Upon talking with her, Daeson realizes everything he once held dear was a lie. Force to flee Jypton, Daeson must decide what he believes before it becomes too late.

My Thoughts –

So far in 2021, I’ve finished 3 books, two of which I loved: a reread of Salt to Sea which made me love that book even more and Nova!! I have been waiting to read Nova for quite some time, having read almost all of his previous books. Most of his books involve a Christian virtue or Biblical story woven throughout. It was a wonderful mix of a retelling of Moses with a unique technological universe of planets.

I liked Daeson, Raviel, and Tig. Daeson especially felt fleshed out. I kept hoping we would get more about Tig. Compared to some of Black’s previous female leads, Raviel is a definite improvement and I liked her and Daeson together. Not sure what to make of Rivet the droid. Is he good or just waiting to betray them? The AI wars reminded me of Star Wars and Rivet of a droid from Mandolorien series.

Black’s strong suit is setting and word building. He does a great job creating a believable world with unique technology and writes in a way that makes you fell like you are there with the characters. I mean he even provides diagrams of some of the technology. I do wish he had a map of the galaxy or of Jypton.

You can tell it’s based off Moses and the Isrealites in Egypt, but it’s subtler then I had expected. Which is totally fine and works! The prologue introduces Immortals who I am assuming are angels?? Ell Yon is the one true God who is with the Immortals. Both are invisible. Ell Yon makes an appearance to Daeson somewhat similar to the burning bush. They have an exchange where Daeson asks questions and Ell Yon answers, “I am.” Very similar to God’s words to Moses in Exodus.

The plot moved a quick pace and had a fair amount of action sequences. Intriguing enough to keep you hooked, but felt very predictable. I’d say The Clock of Light had a better plot, but Nova had better characters, but that’s just my opinion.

Language – None

Violence – There are fighter jet type ships that Daeson flies so we get several aerial battles. Several enemy Starcraft are blow up during Daeson’s escape. In protecting a meeting with Raviel, Daeson destroys a few drones and knocks out a sentry. Later rogue robots shoot and almost kill both Raviel and Daeson. We see the desolation that occurs when the Elite’s massacre most of the Raylean population.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

A solid start to a new series! I love science fiction and am always on the lookout for anything new, especially Christian science fiction, which is difficult to find. Nova was a pleasant surprise and very clean. It’s something you could easily read in a day or two. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Next – I’ve already started my next books which I will be reading at the same time: Caraval by Stephanie Garber and rereading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Now over to you! How’s your January going? Have you heard of Nova or Chuck Black’s other series?

Anna

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Review for Return of Tarzan

The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Genre – Adventure, Survival, Classic

Series – Second book in the Tarzan series

Rating – PG for peril and violence

Synopsis –

Picking up where Tarzan of the Apes left off, we find Tarzan on an ocean liner heading toward France. He has left Jane that she could marry Clayton. In doing so, he has given up his rightful title of Lord Greystoke. During the ocean crossing, Tarzan intercepts several attempts at besmirching and harming the Count De Coude’s honor. The count and his wife Olga are hounded by a man named Nikolas Rokoff. In siding with the Count, Tarzan has created a formidable enemy in Rokoff who will go to the ends of the earth to seek his revenge. Will Tarzan be able to settle for living a quiet life in France or will he revert to his former lifestyle as an ape-man?

My Thoughts –

I wanted to make sure I published another review before the end of the year. So, I decided upon Tarzan. I enjoy these rollicking adventure stories. They have a completely different feel to them compared to some of the writers today. You have a duel, espionage, fights, desert battles, and surviving the hostile jungle. I will say the first book is better in my opinion. Although, the two books could almost be merged together. The Return of Tarzan continues many of the themes from the first book.

Really the only thing that I didn’t care for was how the RoT was almost two separate books. The first section was set in France with the whole intrigue surrounding the Count and his wife. This section was well written, and I really enjoyed the duel and the courage and sacrifice Tarzan shows. The second half kinda wanders a bit and seems the author throws everything he can think of into it. You go from Tarzan being a spy to him finding the lost city of Opar and let’s not forgot the whole Arabian battle in Sidi Aissa. A little too much hopping from one event to the next for me.

I really liked Tarzan’s progression from a man who didn’t understand many common practices to becoming fluent in a variety of languages and cultured enough to pass in society. He truly cares for those around him and is a loyal person to the point of sacrificing his life. Also, I liked Jane’s personal development as she realized where her heart truly lay.

What a relief it was that Burroughs left off much of his primeval man talk. In Tarzan of the Apes, he spent a lot of time talking about about how man had evolved from the primeval ape. You can really see how Darwin’s theory impacted Burrough’s writing a bit which is kinda sad. Although, Burroughs also mentions a Creator or deity a few times.

Language – Pretty clean, only a handful of uses of mild language

Violence – There are several attempts made to kill or hurt the Count and his wife. Tarzan intercedes in a way that no one is harmed. There is a duel between Tarzan and the Count over possible infidelity. (more on that later) Tarzan is shot twice, but only scratches and is not seriously harmed. He is lead into a trap by Rokoff, yet Tarzan kills and harms Rokoff’s men and a few police officers. He almost kills the count in a fit of rage. Later in Africa is left for dead in the desert. He kills several lions to save his life. Burroughs makes it clear that he does not advocate aimless killing for sport. Tarzan battles several Arabs who work for Rokoff. Later, he is presumed dead after being pushed off a ship. I will note that most of the killing is bloodless and not very descriptive.

Innuendo – Throughout the book it is shown Tarzan being noble and heroic in his dealings with women except for one instance. After meeting Olga on the ocean liner, they become friends and he spends quite a bit of time with her and her husband at their home. Rokoff finds out about this and sets up phony letters to get Tarzan alone with Olga. Upon realizing the set up, Tarzan tells Olga what has happened and he comforts her. They end up kissing. The Count, also sent a letter, rushes home and sees them kissing. He believes that more had occurred. So sets up a duel. Tarzan realizes his mistake takes the blame for what happened and cleared Olga of any crime.

Conclusion –

All in all, it was a light splashy read. For a short novel it takes you many places around the world. I don’t know much about Burroughs, but he wrote in way that felt that he had been to all these places, especially the African sections. I really preferred the first book though. His whole learning to read/write was just fascinating, maybe that’s just cause I’m a teacher πŸ˜‰ The portions of the book on the various ships were great and probably my favorite parts!

Now over to you! Have you read this book or the previous one? How was your Christmas?

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year!

Anna

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2020 in Review

I thought it might be fun to go over some of my favorite books that I read. I believe I did a similar post last year. http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020/01/01/2019-in-review/. It has been such a crazy year!! I didn’t read quite as many books as I did last year, but I came close. Probably part of it due to reading some longer books *cough * War and Peace *cough * Atlas Shrugged. I’m looking at you two. Anyway, my total (I’m going to count the book I’m reading as I will defiantly finish it before New Year’s day) count is * Drumroll please * 65!! Whoohoo!! Plus, I read all but 2 of the books on my TBR list posted here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020-book-list/

Now on to some of my favorite books!!

Excited Season 4 GIF by The Office

#6 Offworld by Robin Perrish

Really enjoyed this Christian science fiction book!! Its a little different in that instead of astronauts going to outer space, they are returning to find quite a different world. Its quirky and unique, but keeps you guessing which I loved! My review here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020/02/25/review-for-offworld/

#5 Flight of Angels by Allen and Aaron Reini

Another Christian Science fiction themed book! Go figure! πŸ˜‰ This one includes some spy & thriller type feel to it. I liked the diverse cast of characters and being set on different planets other then earth. Capatin De’falco and Nikky were my favorite characters of the bunch. I mean who doesn’t like the guy in the chair. πŸ™‚ There also some good themes about friendship and betrayal. Link to my review here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020/04/16/review-for-flight-of-the-angels/

#4 Maze Runner by James Dashner

This was a new to me dystopian that I fell for hard! Love the movies version of this book. The first one is the best of the series in my opinion. The second was ok, but the third was a disappointment. Anyway, its an easy read, but bits of it hit very close to home, what with their illness and our virus. My favorites all seem to be science fiction. πŸ˜‰ My Review here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020/11/01/review-of-the-maze-runner/

#3 Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

I discovered Gary Schmidt last summer and absolutely loved Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. I heard this book was more for adults then some of his previous books. He does a wonderful job with a tough subject and showcases a family’s love for a foster son. Read this with tissues nearby! I truly loved the story arc of the main characters. Truly one I highly recommend! My review here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020/05/14/review-for-orbiting-jupiter/

#2 Taliesin (Book 1 of Pendragon Cycle) by Stephan Lawhead


This was really close to being #1, but Lawhead takes his time to develop the characters and setting and so it takes time to really get going. Taliesin tells the story of Merlin’s parents while recreating the lost world of Atlantis. I’m really looking forward to continuing the story. Lawhead has a lyrical sense with the way he writes. Solid fantasy epic with a redemptive arc. My more in depth review is here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020/07/13/review-for-taliesin/

And my favorite book of this year is …….

#1 Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Ugh, I really loved this WWII survival story!! It’s so good. Sepetys weaves together a tale of four teenagers at the end of the war. Each has had a different experience during the war. It’s also based somewhat on a true story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise ship endeavoring to flee. Truly a captivating story although this is another one you’ll need some tissues. My Review here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020/01/31/review-for-salt-to-the-sea/

These are some my favorites this year! A few close seconds include: A Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody & Joanne Randell, Goodbye Mr. Chips by James Hilton, Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart, & This Tender Land by William Kent Kruger.

Now I want to hear from you! What did you read this year? Have any favorites? Have you read any of these?

Anna

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Top Audiobooks of 2020

I have listened so a handful of audiobooks this year, less then I did last year. Probably due to the pandemic and less driving. πŸ™ Anyway, I wanted to mention a few that I have really enjoyed. Most of these the narrator does a great job drawing you into the story, with one exception. I’m not going to list these any particular order.

On with the show!

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow

This year I dipped my toe in a fair amount of Russian themed books. I had come across A Gentleman in Moscow on several blogs and decided I was in the mood to travel back in time to 1922 Moscow. πŸ˜‰ I really enjoyed this one!! Nicholas Smith narrates and truly brings the character Count Alexander Rostov to life. It tells the story of Count Rostov and how the Bolshevik tribunal place him under house arrest at the fancy Hotel Metropol. While there, he meets some of the most interesting people who help break up him hum drum existence and change his life. This is a whopper of an audiobook as it clocks in at 17 hours, but I’d highly recommend listening to it!

  • The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The Night Gardener

After reading the first two books in the Peter Nimble Adventures, I found that the author had written several other novels. This particular one peaked by interested. It tells the story of siblings who work as servants inside an old manor house. The family that lives there seem to be plagued by problems. The siblings resolve to mind their own business and just do their job, but when Kip sees a mysterious spectre roaming the grounds, Molly needs to figure out what is going on before it’s too late. While creepy at times, it becomes more of a fable for what happens when people become greedy. Beverly Crick adds to the quirky characters. While the book is aimed at middle graders, I’d say young adult on up.

  • My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
My Lady Jane Audiobook By Cynthia Hand,
    
        
            
            
                
            
        
        Brodi Ashton,
    
        
            
            
                
            
        
        Jodi Meadows cover art

Years ago I had read about the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey. This retelling throws history out the window and embarks on its own fantasy twist to the tale. I love retellings and decided to give this one a try. It’s narrated by Katherine Kellgren, and I can honestly say I wasn’t a huge fan of either the book or the narration style. I feel like it had a lot of potential, but I didn’t like the lead character who seemed very prideful to me. Anyway, it was a pretty light and fluffy audiobook, good for the summer (as it has that feel and that’s when I listened to it).

  • The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
The Last Dragonslayer (The Last Dragonslayer, #1)

This was probably my favorite of the audiobooks I listened to this year!! Also, was of the shorter audiobooks only a little over 7 hours, but it is packed with charm and whimsy! The lead character is very relatable and the narrator, Elizabeth Jasicki, did it justice! It is about 15 year old Jennifer Strange who currently runs Kazam, a employment agency for magicians. She has things running as smoothly as they can while the real owner is missing. Yet, odd things begin to happen as the last dragon is predicted to die shortly. The long and short of it is, is a coming of age story with fantasy set in a world very similar to our own. I’d highly recommend giving this one a go!

  • Britt Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman
Britt-Marie Was Here Audiobook By Fredrik Backman cover art

This was the book club’s pick for the month of November and I really enjoyed it quite a bit! I had never read anything by Backman prior to this. So, it was a fun surprise. The narrator is fantastic at giving all the characters a varied voice and made you feel for Britt-Marie. After finding out her husband was having an affair, Britt Marie finds one of the few jobs available for someone her age, running a youth center in Borg. The people in this small broken down village lead Britt-Marie to discover who she really is and what she wants from life. There are so many heartwarming scenes that will make you laugh and then cry. *Warning* The language in this one is rough and used throughout by certain characters.

  • Tarzan of the Apes by Edger Rice Burroughs
Tarzan of the Apes

This was a re-listen for me as I had read this several years ago. To prepare for reading the next book, Return of Tarzan, I figured I’d listen to it in order to re-familiarize myself with the story. Tarzan’s parents die tragically in the jungle leaving behind a wee baby. Kala the ape had just lost her baby and adopts Tarzan as her own. Tarzan grows up with the apes and learns their ways and language. He doesn’t meet one of his own kind until a African native kills Kala. He begins to learn to read and write. When a ship brings Jane Porter and her father Archimedes Porter, Tarzan must decide whether he wants to stay in the jungle or leave for civilization. I enjoyed revisiting the jungle! Jeff Harding does a wonderful job narrating.

Well, that’s all for now! I hope you enjoyed seeing what I listened to this year. Cannot wait to hear from you all! Do you enjoy audiobooks? Or prefer an actual book? What did you listen to this year?

Anna

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Review of Ishmael

Ishmael by E. D. E. N. Southworth

Genre – Adult, Historical, Christian Fiction

Series – 1st of two books, followed by Self-Raised

Rating – PG for thematic elements and discussions of a illegitimate birth.

Synopsis –

Hannah and Nora are two sisters who, although they are dirt poor, are quite content with their life. Until Nora meets Herman Brudenell, the handsome land owner’s son. Nora falls in love with him despite Hannah being very obstinate against it. They are soon married in secret for Herman’s mother’s sake. A series of events leads to Nora’s death in childbirth, and cause Herman to flee his newly born son, Ishmael. Despite the odds against him, Ishmael lives. He faces many hardships on his road to understand the world around him.

My Thoughts –

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I finally finished it! Whoohoo! It took me a while to work my way through Ishmael, but hey, at least I made it. My goal was to finish before Christmas, so check that off the list. I cannot say this was my favorite Lamplighter book, but there were some good elements to it. Quite a bit different from any of the other Lamplighters that I had read previously.

Let’s get to the nitty-gritties shall we? To start the character development and setting are spot on! Southworth does a great job giving the characters a backstory and motives for their growth or moral decline. The setting felt real, probably due to fact that this book was written close to time it was set. Ishmael is a likeable character, you root for him to be victorious over the circumstances of his birth and childhood years. Although, for the majority of the book, he felt almost too perfect. He didn’t have any major flaws to speak of, until literally the last chapter. So, that got on my nerves a bit. Beatrice is great women who loves and sacrifices her wants for her friend Claudia.

Now, I had one major problem with it – main character love interest. He fell for the snotty and proud Claudia who views him as a dog. Ugh, this annoyed me so much. He literally will do anything she asks. I really wanted Ishmael to realize how Beatrice felt and cared about him. That being said thankfully the romance side of the story takes a backseat to his growth as a person and Ishmael climbing the proverbial work ladder.

Southworth does a great job weaving faith throughout the book. We see Ishmael’s faith in the Lord grow from barely recognizing his Creator and almost worshiping the founding fathers to a strong devotion to the Lord and reliance upon him. Even Hannah, listened to her dying sister and opted to leave revenge in God’s hands. She could very easily have told everyone the truth of Ishmael’s parentage. So, I appreciated that aspect.

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I do have to mention that it moves very slowly. The plot takes it times and meanders a little bit which was part of the reason I struggled to really sink into the novel. Maybe it’s just me being picky. πŸ˜‰ Whatever the reason, (mentally saying quote from the Grinch) just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

Language – Just a few uses of mind swearing, used by Ishmael’s rivals.

Innuendo – Several of his schoolmates make fun of his birth. Leads to several characters believing that Ishmael was born out of wedlock.

Violence – A house is burning and Ishmael rushes in to save to boys who were trapped. He suffered some burns and bruises. Later, he endeavors to halt a runaway horse and carriage. He is trampled by the horse and wheels of carriage. He breaks a few ribs and both of his legs, maybe his arm as well.

Conclusion –

I can say that I enjoyed bits and pieces. There were many aspects of the book that were very compelling and realistic. Several character just annoyed me with their constant pettiness, but the main character was devoted to the Lord. Written during a very interesting time in history. I can say I read it! Overall, word building was fantastic and very clean.

How is your December going? Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

Anna

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Review for The Death Cure

The Death Cure by James Dashner

Genre – Dystopian, Mystery, Suspense

Series – 3rd book in the Maze Runner series

Rating – PG-13 for violence and death

Synopsis –

Thomas is fed-up with WICKED, they have told so many lies and caused him to lose many friends. They have even told Thomas that his best friend Newt has the virus. So, he decides to take matters into his own hands and leave as quickly as possible with Mingho and Newt. Yet, when their escape is too easy and they begin to suspect something is off. Did WICKED let them go? Will they be able to find a cure before it is too late? And just who can be trusted?

My Thoughts –

Wow, um kinda hard to believe that I finished this series already! Now that I’ve read/listened to the series, I can honestly say the first book is the best! The Maze Runner was able to bring to life these boys and yet still move the mystery along. Plus it didn’t have the weird love triangle that started in The Scorch Trials, ugh, sorry Brenda fans.

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I just really didn’t like or trust her. Even in The Death Cure, she just got more annoying. Like what even, that kiss at the end?? Your best friend who was a girl just died, and Thomas goes and kisses Brenda? No! Just No!

I was also kinda sad about the characters in this one. So far they were pretty consistent, yet now Newt goes all crazy and acts completely different. I get he has the flare, but really! Ugh, * Spoiler Alert * His death felt so sidelined and why did he have to die? End of Spoiler. Thomas also was a bit wishy-washy not really knowing what he wanted. I missed the good old days when they had a mission to see through

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The One good thing Character wise was Gally! So nice to see him again, despite how the author left him off in The Maze Runner, he had some redemption here that made up for Chuck a little bit.

The plot felt a little bit all over the map. Maybe that is just my take on it. The storytelling is pretty good, and Dashner creates a fairly believable world, especially when talking about recent events like COVID. Felt a little too close to home. Overall the plot moves more like 1 step forward, 2 steps back, which was a little frustrating. I did like the end though, not counting a character death, too convenient for me. πŸ™ The whole going back to maze and saving everybody was good to see. I’m not really sure how I feel about the Immunes just leaving rest of world to crumble though, I guess there isn’t much they can do.

I have to say that I really liked how the movie did The Death Cure! They smoothed out a few crinkles and kept the characters from changing so much. They also did a much better job with the 2 character’s death. Didn’t feel so worthless and more self-sacrificial.

Violence – I feel like the author stepped up the violence quite a bit! What with the flare turning people crazy and zombie like. Lots of fighting, stabbing, characters get shot, and tazzed with electricity. One instance of running cranks (people with the flare) over in a car. The cranks were trying to kill our characters by smashing windows, reaching in and grabbing them by hair. One character shots another character to put him out of his misery. He is dying a slow and painful death. Didn’t really appreciate this at all. A building collapses causing characters to get trapped or smashed by rocks. One character stops a rock to save others before dying.

Language – Maybe 5 instances of mild swearing. The author invented his own colorful language that the boys use including: shank, slim it, and shuck, used throughout book.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

I feel like I mostly had negatives to say about book, but it really wasn’t all bad. There were a few nice moments, and I will say it was hard to put down! It’s an interesting end to the series a bit odd, but you get a few answers about why they went through the trials and maze, but nothing concrete. Movie better, period. Maybe, it would have helped to have read books before watching movies. πŸ˜‰ The books are very much aimed at the YA audience, like 90% of the characters are teenagers. I have mixed feeling about this book, I liked it, but also got annoyed by characters.

Anyway, have you ever read this series and have a favorite? What are your thoughts about ending?

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Anna

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Review of Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot, #17)

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Genre – Mystery, Suspense

Series – #17 Hercule Poirot

Rating – PG-13 for violence and death

Synopsis –

The famous French detective Hercule Poirot has decided to take a vacation to Egypt. Little did he know that he would become involved in the mysterious murder of Linnet Ridgeway a British rich aristocrat. A few months before heading to Egypt, Linnet meets with her best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort to talk about Jacqueline’s possible engagement. Jacqueline is madly in love with Simon Doyle, a poor country man, and wants Linnet to give her consent to Jacqueline’s marriage. Several months later. Poirot meets Linnet during his trip in Egypt, and she had married Simon. Linnet is scared for her life and begs Poirot to investigate. After she is murdered on a boat, Poirot needs all of skill to figure out exactly what happened.

My Thoughts –

Sorry if my thoughts get a little jumbled, I finished this book almost a week ago and its still swirling around my head. I’ve only read/listened to a handful of Christie’s novels, yet this one seems to stand out to me. I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express with its unique ending, but I almost liked Death on the Nile more. For starters, the focus is on character development and exploring what makes each suspect tick. I loved this aspect, most whodunit’s just focus on the crime. Then the murder doesn’t happen until half-way through the book. Again, this was different then most mystery novels I’ve read and it really worked!

There is a whole host of characters, some of whom are very well created. I really like how Christie wrote Jacqueline. Although she carries a grudge, I liked and felt sorry for her. I also was drawn to Cornelia; what a bright flower among so many flawed people. Cornelia had a kind and humble heart. Now, I cannot forget Poirot. He is definitely a quirky detective; he’s able to notice things that nobody else does, but also has a soft side. There was a section where he takes Jacqueline aside and they have a little chat. It was such an emotional scene and after having only met this women, Poirot cared about her.

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The plot had several twists and turns to it. I was so sure that certain characters were innocent, but Christie had me fooled. There were a few things that I found odd, but wasn’t able to put everything together.

Although this is not a Christian book by any means, Poirot believes in God. He quotes scripture a few times at just the right moment and on the inside I was like “Yes!” Also, he tries to prevent several characters from making poor decisions.

Language – Mild infrequent swearing

Innuendo – A character marries her best friend’s boyfriend, (we find out later this was all planned by best friend to get money). A character references sex as a subject in her book she wrote.

Violence -Now while it is a murder mystery, Christie keeps the violence to a minimum. You know they die and how, but it isn’t gratuitous. A character is found dead the next morning by gunshot to head. Another character is shot in the leg. A few other characters die, but not very detailed. Later to avoid going to prison, a character commits suicide.

Conclusion –

Death on the Nile gives an interesting look at what can lead a person to do horrible things. There is a lot to think about and I really enjoyed diving into another Agatha Christie novel. I had a hard time putting it down!! Personally, I love seeing an in depth look at characters and their development . So this was right up my alley. Overall, a well written story that defiantly worth a read!

Have you read any Agatha Christie books? Do you have a favorite? Hope you are having a wonderful November!

Anna

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Review of The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genre – Dystopian, Science Fiction, Survival

Series – 1st book in the Maze Runner series

Rating – PG-13 for violence, scary situations

Synopsis –

Thomas wakes up in box remembering nothing of his previous life, except his name. He soon discovers that he is trapped inside a maze with roughly 4o other boys with similar experiences. They live in the Glade a square space set in the middle of the maze that is closed off from the maze at night. As he befriends some of the other boys, becomes curious about how the maze works. Alby and Newt (the two leaders) show Thomas the ropes, and he soon realizes that he desperately wants to be one of the runners who map out the maze. There is a little resistance from Gally, who claims to recognize Thomas, There are also Grievers, a rubber slug like creature with robotic appendages, who roam the maze at night. Will Thomas and the other boys be able to find a way out? Who put them here?

My Thoughts –

Sorry about the small Hiatus! Things have picked up at work and life has been busy! Hoping to post more soon. I liked this book, I really did, despite reading of this book after watching the movie. Previously, I hadn’t really heard of this series before finding it at local library. I was fascinated by the mystery behind it. Reminded me a lot of Lost, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So after seeing the first movie, I found the book at the library and plowed through it fairly quickly. I have to say that personally, I like puzzles and figuring out what’s going on, so I didn’t mind that the author held back information or gave it to us in small chunks.

I have to say that I liked the movie’s portrayal of Alby and Thomas better then the book. I feel like it flushed out their characters a bit better then the book did. Although, Newt and Mingho had more personality in the book. So, go figure that one out. Chuck is so sweet and the perfect friend for Thomas, who could be a bit selfish at times. Newt is one of my favorite characters and I can connect with him on several levels. He is kinda like the peacemaker of the group and the one who keeps things going. Not really a leader though. Liked the whole Newt having a limb, remind anybody of Crutchie from Newsies ?? πŸ™‚

Although the writing wasn’t super great, the plot moved quickly and kept me interested in the story. There isn’t much character development, more focused on the action and mystery behind the maze which didn’t bug me too much. You don’t get many answers even by the end of the book. * Spoiler Alert * I liked that the maze actually spelled out words to help escape, but wanted more there to be more it. Ending a wee bit flat. It seemed that Thomas just suddenly had the answer to solving maze. Wished he had to work harder to get answer.

There were several little bits that I really loved! Chuck’s sacrifice! What a noble act for such a young kid! He was so brave. I also loved the parts about the Glade and how they had built a little community. Every person had a job; left me wanting more. It felt like that section so brief before we moved on to more action sequences. The meeting of the Keepers was also a nice touch.

Language – Maybe 2 uses of mild British language, mostly the author invented his own slang words that the boys used frequently like “Greenie”, “shank”, “shuck”

Innuendo – None

Violence – Um, yeah, there is quite a bit. Not gory, but it’s in there. First, there is this sickness that people get if stung by the Grievers. It makes them lose their mind and eventually die if they don’t get antidote. The antidote has side effects as well. It causes green veins to appear all over the body & gives the person flash backs to their previous life. The Grievers also will attack at night and either sting them or use its appendages to cause harm. This happens a couple times. Mentions of people getting left out in maze at night who disappear or killed. There is a battle where many Gladers are killed by grievers. Not really detailed, but we know it happens. Chuck jumps in front of a knife to save Thomas. One guy tries to kill Thomas after going through changeling process and remembering.

Other – One other thing I want to mention. After the guy tries to kill Thomas, he is banished to the maze. They all kinda push him out of the glade. This made no sense to me. I mean the guy wasn’t right in the head due to the antidote. Cut him some slack. I felt sorry for him and we see Thomas being horrified at this. Just wish he didn’t have to die.

Conclusion –

I’m a sucker for good mystery with twists and complex puzzles; this book fit perfectly. I enjoyed it quite a bit! The characters felt and acted like normal teenage kids and hopefully they get a bit fleshed out and develop over next book. I really wanted to figure out what was going on, despite having seen the movie, as there were some big differences. Although I had a few quibbles, its a decent first installment and yeah, I’m reading the next one. πŸ˜‰

Have you seen or heard of this series? What are your thoughts? Can you believe it is already November!

Anna

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Review for I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Genre – Historical, coming of age, romance

Series – No

Rating – PG – for mild innuendo

Synopsis –

Cassandra has received a journal and decides to practice her speed writing by writing about her life living in a run down castle with her family. Her mother died many years ago and her father remarried a women named Topaz. Cassandra’s family has no money, and so excitement surfaces when two American bachelors move into their landowner’s estate. Rose, the sister, is determined to marry someone who has money because she is sick of being poor. As her father sinks into a miserable and forlorn state, Cassandra desperately wants to help out. Will Cassandra be able to come up with a form of income? or will these 2 Americans kick their family out for good?

My Thoughts –

I didn’t realize this until after I started this book, that it is by the author of 101 Dalmatians. I have conflicting thoughts on this book; defintatly unique with a surprising ending that I kinda liked, but also felt a little dissatisfied with it. Yet, I have to say the author did a wonderful job sweeping you into the story of this family’s life. There were a few moments that very much reminded me of Pride and Prejudice. Poor family, 2 sisters that are close, rich neighbors – you get the picture. πŸ˜‰

All the characters come across in a very real way. The story itself moves along slowly as the author takes time to describe surroundings and build characters. I liked the Mortmain family, although some of their actions were a bit annoying at times. Thankfully, nothing felt contrived though. I have to say that I liked Stephan much more then I did Simon. *Spoiler Alert * I am quite glad that Cassandra does not end up with Simon, but why did she drag Stephan along !! I didn’t really like Rose. I just couldn’t support her convictions. However, I found Mr. Mortmain to be quite comedic l and a complex character.

The plot had some very sweet moments to it, but then the characters would do something that got on my nerves. I have to say I liked it, but not so much that I truly loved the story.

The characters themselves are not Christians , so their choices can sometimes reflect that. Although, Cassandra does go to church a few times and discusses theology with the priest. There was one part where Cassandra and Rose would throw these big rituals on May Day. They would read poetry, dance around the fire, and collect flowers. It just felt odd & I cannot say I cared for it.

Violence – The reason Mr. Mortmain got sent to prison was because a neighbor saw him brandishing a cake knife at his wife. (He is truly a kind man although a bit distant and sarcastic).

Language – There really wasn’t that much, maybe a few uses of mild swearing.

Innuendo – Cassandra mentions that Topaz likes to commune with nature by walking outdoors naked. (We never see this happen, but it is mentioned a few times.) Cassandra decides to sunbathe naked when none of her family members are home. She does do this in a private part of the castle where no one could stumble upon her. It is suggested that a character made love to another character.

Conclusion –

In thinking back, I have to say the first half was good and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The second half seemed to derail a little bit with a big twist at the end. Overall I’d say a unique story with some out of the box characters. Honestly I cannot think of much more to say about it.

How is your fall going? What have you been reading? Have you heard of this book?

Anna

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Review for My Dog Skip

My Dog Skip by Willie Morris

Genre – Memoir, Historical, Humor

Rating – PG – rare uses of mild language

Series – No, stand-a-lone

Synopsis –

Willie receives a dog for his ninth birthday, while his family has had previous dogs, but Skip is special. Skip and Willie grow up a small Mississippi town back in the 1940’s. As Skip & Willie grow up, they have many adventures and learn a few lessons along the way. Whether it’s Willie’s night at the cemetery or Skip driving the car, it sure to bring a smile to your face.

My Thoughts –

This book was such a heartwarming & quick read that I didn’t want it to end!! I am a sucker for a good dog story and feel like I find a new one every year. I discovered this one by chance when I saw the movie for the first time. It was cute and brought tears to my eyes at the end. When I realized it was a book first, I quickly put it on hold from my library. My Dog Skip is less then 200 pages long and yet after reading it you feel like you’ve known Skip and Willie all your life.

The stories are not really in chronological order just by theme or year. Despite that fact, I didn’t mind it; it just flowed so easily. So, sometimes you get many little stories within one chapter or one single story. Morris has a humorous way of writing which made me chuckle and smile several times. You could picture the town and the characters. πŸ™‚ Who would have thought to create a prank around a dog driving a car or putting dewormer into cookies.

I will say its not really character driven, just mostly focused on the author’s memories of growing up with his dog. He names some of his friends, but doesn’t give very many details about them. Skip makes up for it though for he has quite the personality.

Language – Many 3 uses of mild language.

Violence – None

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Morris writes such a charming book about a time long past & makes you want to go back and visit this small town. You can tell how much the author loved his dog & all the fun adventures they had together. Plus it was pretty clean and might make for a fun read aloud!

Have you read this book or seen the movie? How is your fall going? What have you been reading?

Anna

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Tolkien 2020 Blog Party

Hooray!! Its the Tolkien Blog party! Last year I just kinda watched as it was my first year blogging, but this year I thought it would be fun to participate in the tag questions! So here we go!

First I wanted to thank Hamlette for hosting! Check out her blog post here to find other post: https://theedgeoftheprecipice.blogspot.com/2020/09/a-tolkien-blog-party-2020-kick-off-post.html

1. What Tolkien character do you think you’re the most like?

Honestly, I would have to say Bilbo as I am not a fan of big changes and prefer to stay in my comfy abode to read. Although with a little pushing, I can be convinced to explore the outside world πŸ˜‰

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2. What Tolkien character do you wish you were more like?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. After my reread of the LOTR last year, Faramir comes to mind. He has a lot of quality character traits that I hadn’t picked up on before like leadership, trust, resisting evil. So, yeah, that is who I’ll pick.

3. What would your dream home in Middle-earth be like?

I am conflicted with this one. I would love to live in the shire, but I think I’d also like to be in view of the mountains. Ah, I know, I would live in Rohan!! You get the mountains and a land known for their horses. Perfect!

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4. You get to make a movie of the story of Beren and Luthien!Β  Who do you cast as the leads? I think Emily Blunt would make a good Luthien, she could be very elf like & mysterious *cough* Mary Poppins πŸ˜‰

Now for Beren … oddly enough Chris Evens comes to mind. I think he could be a good Beren. I’m thinking of his role as Captain America. He goes out and gets things done. So I could see him playing a character who risks his life, several times, for the one he loves.

That’s who I would cast. Kinda fun to pick and choose who you would cast for a role, especially since no one has ever attempted The Silmarillion.

5. Have you ever marathoned the LOTR or Hobbit movies?

Yes, I have done so a couple times. Before The Battle of Five Armies came out we watched the first 2 Hobbits over the course of a day. It worked really well! Then a couple years later, we marathoned the movies over several days. You pick up on certain details that I miss when I watch them separately.

6. Do you have a favorite song or track from the movie soundtracks by Howard Shore?

I love the “Concerning Hobbits” soundtrack, but I also really like “The Misty Mountains” song. Oh, cannot forget “The Last Goodbye”!! So many good songs to pick from!!

7. Which of Tolkien’s characters would you like to be best friends with?

Either Legolas or Samwise. Legolas becomes Gimli’s friend overcoming some prejudice and they become so close! I always loved their friendship, but I love Samwise’s loyalty!

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8. Who of the people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor?

I would have to say my siblings. We all each have are own skill set, although not really any survival skills, πŸ˜‰ but I think it would be like a fun road-trip.

9. Have you read any of Tolkien’s non-Middle-earth works?

Yes, I have read several: Roverandom, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – which I think Tolkien translated, Farmer Giles of Ham, Leaf by Niggle & Smith of Wooton Major.
10. Is there a book by Tolkien you haven’t read yet, but want to?

Yes, I still want to read Beren and Luthien & maybe The Children of Hurin.

lord of the rings GIF by Maudit

Well, that is it!! This was a lot of fun! Nice to have a break from the normal blog posts and do something fun like a blog party!! What are your thoughts on the tag questions?

Anna

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2 Mysteries that I have recently finished

Recently I just haven’t had as much time to read as I would like, yet I have just finished 2 mysteries that were quite good! I enjoyed both, but for different reasons & and will give a mini review on both.

First, Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse.

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction

Series – Second book in the Mycroft and Sherlock series

Rating – PG -13 for violence & drug use

Synopsis – Mycroft has just started working high up in the British government and has saved the queen on a previous occasion when a series of murders occurs. At first he is not interested, but when Sherlock’s professor becomes involved and a few close calls, Mycroft begins to suspect that something is brewing. Sherlock meanwhile has secretly taken on this case as his budding investigative powers lead him into the lion’s den. Mycroft and Sherlock work together to find out who is behind these awful murders.

My Thoughts – First, I really liked the authors take on younger versions of Mycroft and Sherlock. I haven’t read the first book as I had no idea this was series, but there was enough information that I didn’t feel too lost. I preferred Sherlock’s escapades for I found Mycroft’s character not as interesting. Plus Sherlock has always been a favorite character of mine. πŸ˜‰ I liked Douglas with his orphanage for boys & appreciated his values. Nice to see Douglas endeavoring to keep his son’s memory by helping others in need. Charles and George were sweet and wanted to hear more of their story.

While the beginning was a wee bit slow, it began to pick up midway through. The action was spread out and did a decent job keeping the pace going, Although the conclusion felt a little off to me. It felt just a little anti-climatic. Oh, well. Overall I enjoyed it and liked several of the characters.

Content – Only a handful of mild uses of language. Really pretty minimal. Violence was mostly characters seeing an already dead body or a description of how they were killed. A couple mentions of genitals getting cut off. Later we learn this is a ritual done in Asia to teach others a lesson. There is a fight scene were a couple characters get beat up. The other content issue is drug use. It is a main theme as the bad guys test drugs on young children before shipping it to users. Sherlock enters a drug den and is injected multiple times.

Now for the second mystery!

The Religious Body by Catherine Aird

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction

Series – First book in the C. D. Sloan mysteries

Rating – PG – Mild violence

Synopsis – When a nun is thought to have been murdered in the convent of St. Anselm, Inspector Sloan is called in. Sister Anne is found at the bottom cellar. The problem for Sloan is that the Nuns are a very quiet group and have given up everything worldly to live for God. Sloan begins diving into Sister Anne’s past and interrogating the others in the convent. Will Sloan be able to get to the bottom before anyone else dies?

My Thoughts – This was a well done mystery. For the longest time, I thought someone was the culprit, but I was proved wrong. πŸ˜‰ Anyway, this was really clean and breath of fresh air. Set after WWII, it has a lot going for it. I like Sloan and his partner Crosby. They were a good pair that reminded me of a couple characters from the show Foyle’s War. While there isn’t much character development, the focus was on introducing the characters and solving the mystery. It was a pretty short book less then 200 p. We also get to see things from the sister’s perspectives and what their life was like. So pacing was pretty quick and it flowed really well for my tastes. I think that I will probably continue this series and see where it goes.

Content – Rare mild language, violence was again after the character had died. She is hit on the back of the head. The villain tries to kill another nun, but is stopped by inspector. Maybe a couple mentions of blood on her clothes. Other then that it is really clean.

Conclusion – So these are a few books that I have finished. It feels so good to finish a book!! Slowly, but surly I am ticking off books on my list. I think I only have maybe 2 or 3 left!! Yea!!! My next book will be My Dog Skip. I recently watched this movie and really enjoyed it! Then found out there was a book behind it so yeah, looking forward to that!!

What books have you read recently? Do you enjoy mysteries? Read any Sherlock Holmes pastiches? What is your favorite?

Anna

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Review for The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Genre – Fantasy, Contemporary, YA fiction

Series – First in The Chronicles of Kazam series

Rating – PG – for fantasy violence

Synopsis –

Working at Kazam has taught Jennifer Strange a fair amount about wizards and how to deal to them. After Mr. Zambini’s disappearance, Jennifer has also taken over managing the whole building. As a 15 year old founding, Jennifer has no clue who her parents were, but she is looking forward to finishing her indentureship upon turning 18. News begins spreading that the soothsayers have foreseen the last dragon dying. The dragonlands are surrounded by a force field that keeps everyone but the dragonslayer out. This leads to a flood of people If the dragonlands disappears then so will all the history behind the dragons. Jennifer decides to try to stop it.

My Thoughts –

awkward the little mermaid GIF

Sorry about the small hiatus, but things have picked up with work, so I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d like. I have had this post in the works for a couple weeks &I have to admit that I listened to this as an audiobook.

Going into it I had no expectations and was pleasantly surprised! The narrator was terrific, although some of her guy voices kinda ran together. The characters were quirky and odd, but enjoyable. It made me enjoy driving which is a statement right there. It takes a good audiobook to do that as you are constantly pausing every 20 minutes or so. In addition it was pretty clean, yet interesting enough that the whole family could enjoy it.

Jennifer was a strong character who was used to having the world on her shoulders. She was kind, truthful, and sometimes right to the point. Tiger was so sweet and I really wanted to see more of him, but since its a series hopefully he appears more later on. In all the other fantasy books I’ve read, dragons usually team up or are evil. This story was different. The dragons were kinda neutral, depending upon how you looked at it. They also were a minor part in the book.

Pacing was also well done, although a little bit predictable. I kinda saw who the last dragonslayer was from like a mile away. The ending though surprised me. I figured they would have to wrap it up quick and didn’t know how author would accomplish that. Kinda neat actually! (I’m Trying not to give away spoilers.) πŸ˜‰

An overall theme was greed. Fforde really showed what can happen when man just keeps taking and taking. It was sad how many characters were affected by it. The truth came out in the end and we got some answers into why some of the characters did the things they did.

Violence – Minimal, one creature self sacrifices himself for Jennifer. Jennifer reluctantly uses her sword to kill a dragon (he actually asked her to do it). Cannon shots are fired.

Language – Maybe one or uses of a certain word

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

This was a very enjoyable audiobook!! I liked the characters and found myself pulled into the story & smiling at the wit & humor sprinkled throughout. Despite the fact that there was some magic, it was mostly kept to the foreground and didn’t really bother me too much. The perfect audio for family trip!!

Have you read this series? How is your summer’s going? Been able to read?

Anna

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Review for That Hideous Strength

That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Science fiction, Fantasy, Christian fiction

Series – 3rd book in the Ransom trilogy

Rating – PG-13 for strong violence and language

Synopsis –

Jane and Mark Studdock have had a rough patch in their marriage. Mark teaches at Bracton college and has recently joined the Fellowship there; he is constantly endeavoring to be a part of the inner circle. This leads him to joining an evil organization called N. I. C. E. Jane on the other hand prefers her independence, but that is changed when she has visions that begin to scare her. With help from an older couple, Jane meets the Director aka Ransom. Will Mark realize his mistake before its too late? Should Jane trust what the Director is telling her?

My Thoughts –

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I did it!! I finished the Ransom trilogy!! Whew, that has taken me on quite a journey. I actually really liked this last installment as it felt completely different from first 2 books. Lewis moves the story back to earth with a little time gap between Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. We also alternate between the N. I. C. E. stronghold at Belbery and Ransom’s group at St. Anne.

The characters that Lewis added in this book were my kind of jam. Jane and Mark felt flushed out, yet pretty relatable. I actually liked Mark, despite some of his views/flaws, and wanted him to see the error of his ways, but he was kind of fooled by N. I. C. E. flowery phrases. Jane, while stubborn, at least realized she needed help. The group at St. Anne’s was kind of funny in their own way – a band of misfits who no one would think could impact Britain. How can you not like a bear named Mr. Beltitude? Plus, Ransom was more of a background character which I think fit after his transformation on Venus. He was like the wise father to the group. In Perelandra, Ransom was odd and a bit idiotic at times, and I just didn’t care for him. So, it was definitely a breath of fresh air to see him change.

One thing Lewis add to That Hideous Strength is a bit of Arthurian legend which was not in his previous books. I liked it. Merlin was kind of kooky, but he added to the plot and was a vehicle for climax. After listening to a talk on this book, I learned that Lewis became friends with Charles Williams while writing. He influenced Lewis quite a bit. I ‘ll add a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61w7SHOJQEg

Spiritual warfare is also heavily present. The N. I. C. E. have found a way to keep a dead head alive. This invites the “macrobes” or demons to speak through this head to the key people in N. I. C. E. Their whole philosophy is to brainwash the public into a very sterile way of thinking. Meanwhile, Ransom has been conversing with the Oyarsa, who are equivalent to angels. At one point, Ransom is talking to Jane and he tells her that she will have to convert to Christianity which goes against Jane’s strong sense of will. Eventually she submits.

One downside for me at least was the ending. I kind of expected a huge battle between the Oyarsa and the bent one, but really all it took was Merlin freeing the animals, who then brought justice. It felt a little odd to me.

Language – Pretty frequently used, although mostly by the nonbelievers. I would say used more often then in the previous books. Kept within the bounds of PG though.

Violence – The directors of N. I. C. E. murder a couple of people who try to leave their organization. Mostly done off the page. Also, mentioned that they want to murder large groups of people to cleanse the world and perform experiments upon animals. They orchestrate riots in Edgestow. Miss Hardcastle takes pleasure in torturing the prisoners. In one instance she burns Jane with a cigarette. Towards the end, Merlin releases animals during a banquet at the N. I. C. E. headquarters, who proceed to kill and maul the guests. References to the room filled with blood. One character’s arm is mauled off. Later a character kills several characters and covers the room in blood. He is then eaten by a bear. So, yeah, violence is also stepped up a bit compared to previous books.

Innuendo – Miss Hardcastle takes off her tunic revealing that she isn’t wearing a corset, while it doesn’t outright say, it hinted that Hardcastle is a lesbian. One of N. I. C. E. goals is to get rid of sex. Mention that on one side of the Moon they don’t breed, but live forever. The other side is depicted as savages. Later on, 3 N. I. C. E. members strip naked before their head. After everything is set right, Venus draws near. This leads to all the animals mating. Jane and Mark spend the night together with a promise of a child.

Conclusion –

It feels really good to have finished this series. It will probably be one that I will reread in future. It wasn’t what I expected for the final book, but it worked. I would say that this one is my favorite of the trilogy. Followed by Out of the Silent Planet then Perelandra. The N. I. C. E. organization really reminded me of the Nazis so you could see how the war impacted what Lewis wrote. Funny little anecdote, Lewis mentions Middle-earth and Numinor which is from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings/ Simarillion. I thought that was kinda neat!

Have you read this trilogy? Have a favorite book by Lewis? Cannot wait to hear from you all!

Anna

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Review of Perelandra

Perelandra by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Science fiction, Fantasy, Christian fiction

Series – 2nd book in the Ransom Trilogy

Rating – PG for violence and innuendo

Synopsis –

Ransom has been home a while since his adventure on Malacandra or Mars. Lewis is taking a trip to meet Ransom when stumbling upon Ransom’s house Lewis encounters an Oyarsa. Eventually Ransom shows up an explains to Lewis why he needs his help. The Oyarsa have summoned Ransom to go to Perelandra (Venus), and Lewis is supposed to help Ransom upon his return. Lewis agrees and so off Ransom goes. Perelandra is a lush planet with a variety of unique wildlife. While there, Ransom meets a Green Lady who is looking for her missing husband, the king. Will Ransom be able to figure out why he was called to Perelandra?

My Thoughts –

Well, I am now 2/3 the way through the series and can say that it is different then I had expected. This second book is much more descriptive then the first, not to say that first was descriptive, but this has an elegant feel to it. Again, like Out of the Silent Planet, this book tries to get you to think outside the box as Lewis tackles some tough subjects.

Let’s talk characters! First, yeah, Lewis sort of wrote himself into the book although albeit in a minor role. I found it kinda humorous as not many authors do that. Maybe Tolkien did as well, cannot remember though. The Green Lady is very innocent and naive, partly because she has just been awakened. Her and Ransom have many philosophical conversations, not gonna lie, but some of it went over my head. Yet, she didn’t have much of a personality. She does go through some development, but not in a way you would expect. Also, Weston comes back and this time he is possessed by Satan which makes for an interesting and odd character.

I will say that the plot is slower then the first. There isn’t much action until closer to the end. A fair amount of the story takes place in conversations arguing this and that. I loved the first few chapters with Lewis and his trip to Ransom’s house. For me it just flowed nicely and kept me engaged.

Lewis delves into several topics that Ransom, the Lady, and Weston discuss. One of the first things they go into is what is evil/good. It kinda plays on the Garden of Eden and what would have happened if Eve never sinned. The Lady doesn’t know what evil is, so Ransom tries to explain it. Lewis also mentions myths a couple times and how a myth on our world could be reality on another. Weston tries to get the Lady to disobey Maleldil’s one rule that he gave her and her husband. That is only scratching the surface. πŸ˜‰

Lewis does a great job weaving Christian elements throughout the story. Here and there Ransom will mention Genesis and the similarities with Perelandra. Multiple times they discuss how Maleldil had been made into a man on our planet and died. Ransom himself is a Christ-like character not in his characteristics, but in how he sacrifices himself. There is also mention of a cleansing of our world. So, there is a lot of Christian content which is nice to see.

Language – One use of mild language.

Violence – Ransom wakes up to find a trail of sliced frog like creatures that are dying. Turns out Weston is mutilating them. Later on Ransom attacks Weston after prompting from Maleldil. They bite, scratch, rip each other up pretty bad. Weston tears Ransom back which bleeds. They chase each other across the world until eventually Ransom pushes him over a cave ledge and he burns up. Ransom realizes as he recovers that he was hurt in his heel. Bleeds for quite a while, meaning weeks.

Innuendo – Upon meeting the Lady, Ransom realizes that both of them are naked. Later on Weston sees Random and the Lady close together (due to Random trying to warn the Lady) and thinks Ransom was seducing her. Weston cannot believe that their interaction truly wasn’t sexual. Near the end Ransom compares something to a women’s breasts.

Conclusion –

This has been an interesting series so far. Lewis delves in deep into some philosophical and spiritual issues all while conveying an interesting story. Although, I cannot say that I liked his characters which ranged from Ransom being idiotic at times to Weston, a pure form of evil. I believe that these books will need to be reread a couple times to fully appreciate what Lewis is doing. Perelandra made me ponder things that I never thought to consider. Would I recommend it? Yes, but take the time to think on what you are reading. πŸ™‚

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Review for Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Christian fiction, Fantasy, Science fiction

Series – First book in Cosmic or Space Trilogy

Rating – PG for mild language and peril

Synopsis –

Dr. Ransom is out on a walking holiday when he meets an older women who is worried about her boy. After endeavoring to save the boy, Ransom is drugged and taken aboard a spaceship. His kidnappers are Devine and Weston. They proceed to take Ransom to Malacandra as a sacrifice to the inhabitants who live there. Ransom embarks on a journey across the planet as his misconceptions are challenged by the inhabitants. Will Ransom be able to escape the clutches of Devine and Weston? Or will he be forced to stay on Malacandra forever?

My Thoughts –

This is a tough book to review as there is a lot to unpack in this small book. It is very different from the Narnia books. In fact it almost felt more like J. R. R. Tolkien’s style of writing. Yet, there are a few moments that reminded me of scenes from Narnia. It goes deeper into theology and philosophy then Narnia does, although some of it kinda hidden underneath the plot. Lewis’s goal was to get people to stop thinking about space and think of it in terms of the heavens. I found a lecture that does a pretty good job explaining Lewis’s perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP-7lc52IZ0&t=3s.

The characters were unique and had some interesting characteristics, but focus is on the allegory. Ransom is a likeable character whose preconceptions about the universe around him are stretched as he learns from the creatures living on Malacandra, which is Mars. There are 3 types of creatures that live on Malacandra and each have different gifts: Sorns, Hross, and Pfifktriggi. Hross were the poets and storytellers, while the Sorns were the philosophers, and lastly the Pfifktriggi are inventors. I have to say that I liked the Hross the best as they felt the most fleshed out of the three. I liked how they were simple creatures who took life as it is without worrying about tomorrow.

However, the villains felt flat to me and at times foolish. They never really added much to the story. Plus, they had such a minor role. As a reader, I want the villain to stand out and make me worry that he will actually do something evil to our characters. I never felt that way in this book. A good example is Thanos or Loki from the Marvel universe. πŸ™‚

I have always been fascinated with space and space travel. Even when I was little and learning about the Apollo missions, it excited me that we could travel to the moon. So, I loved how Lewis describes space and gives it beauty. He also gives Mars a lush landscape with a variety of terrains. Ransom goes from odd jungles with purple tree like plants to a barren Alp like place. He gives the creatures on Mars a unique language that Ransom is able to learn. Hands down Lewis is a master wordsmith.

Overall the plot felt slow and methodical. Lewis has a plan and reason for writing this series, and you can tell. There really weren’t any intense moments. It is defiantly a book that makes you think.

Language – Whenever the two antagonists are around, they use mild language. A few uses of “God” as exclamation by villains. Ransom does not swear.

Violence – Devine and Weston threaten a boy and try to kidnap him. They try to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the Sorns. They shoot and kill a couple Hross as they believe the Hross are hostile.

Innuendo – A couple mentions of procreating with the Mars inhabitants, mostly as a joke. At one point during there space travel, the ship becomes so hot that they only wear weighted belts. As a character is traveling, he notices that an island looks like a women’s breast.

Conclusion –

It was really interesting to dip my toes into something by Lewis other then the Narnia series. I have read The Screwtape Letters, but it has been a while. So, I really enjoyed getting to go on a space odyssey to Mars! It gave me a new perspective on the heavens. Normally we think of space an empty void, but there is beauty and creativity in all that God made. I would highly recommend this book. Although don’t expect it to be a light read. πŸ˜‰

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Review for Nine Coaches Waiting

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

Genre – Suspense, Mystery, Romance

Series – No, it’s a stand-alone novel

Rating – PG – Attempted murder, mild language throughout

Synopsis –

Linda Martin has just accepted a job in France as a nanny for a nine year old boy. In order to acquire the job, Linda has omitted the fact that she grew up in France before she came to England. She is eager to return and looking for something fresh. Yet, upon her arrival, the aunt and uncle are giving off some strange vibes. Linda dismisses them and endeavors to settle herself in her new environment. As the weeks turn into months, there occurs several “accidents” involving, her charge, Philippe. Who is causing these accidents? And why?

My thoughts –

This was a reread for me as I had read it several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wonderful to return to France and the Chateau Valmy. The book was written in the 50s and has a cozy air about it. I loved this book so much that I bought it to add to my ever growing collection. πŸ˜‰

Alright, let’s get down to business. The characters are superb and have a depth to them. Linda is a plucky and courageous young women who you can easily root for as she faces the dangers surrounding her young charge. I liked Philippe; he has wisdom beyond his young years. He experienced what no child should have to experience as both of his parents died suddenly. These events have lead to Philippe’s quietness and thoughtfulness. Then you get to Raoul. I have to say that I really liked Raoul. Now, he can be an idiot at times, but he cares both for Philippe and Linda. Although, I do have say that he falls for her rather quickly, but oh well. You can’t have everything.

Honestly this was a hard book to put down, despite having read it before. There were a few scenes that I remembered like the Easter Ball, but I couldn’t remember how everything turned out. Stewart does a great job dragging you into story, yet also moving the plot along at a decent pace. Also, Stewart does a job creating beautiful descriptions that she uses throughout the novel. They reminded me a bit of the descriptions in The Blue Castle.

The one thing I didn’t care for was the ending. There was a whole misunderstanding that occurs and it is only resolved on like the last few pages. I wish there could have been a bit more to tidy things. I would have loved to see where Linda ends up and how Philippe handles the whole situation.

Language – Mild language throughout, mostly kept to what you would hear in PG TV show. 1 use of God’s name in vain.

Violence – Stewart keeps the violence down to a minimum. Mostly, the threat is what you can’t see. There is a shooting accident out in the woods where they try to shoot at a character. The character is not hurt though. Also, they try to cause him to fall off balcony. Again though a character’s ingenuity, she protects him. Lastly, at the very end a character commits suicide (although a character thinks he was murdered at first). It isn’t described in detail.

Innuendo – Two characters fall in love. They kiss twice. Some talk of falling in love. Gossip gets out that two characters run off together, but in reality they didn’t.

Conclusion –

Overall for a cozy mystery, this one is really enjoyable. Yes, there is a bit of love at first sight, but the romance is secondary to the mystery. I love cozy mysteries that have that old fashioned feel to them. So many cozy mysteries today feel over done or have cardboard characters. Its always refreshing to find a mystery that is different and unique. This would make for a great summer read as it is relatively short, but enjoyable. I would say that this book is aimed at adults.

How are your summer’s going? What have you been reading?

Anna

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Review for Taliesin

Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead

Genre – Fantasy, Science fiction, Historical fiction

Series – First book in The Pendragon Cycle

Rating – PG-13 for mild violence & innuendo, peril

Synopsis –

This is the tale of Merlin’s parents. First we meet Charis a daughter of one of the nine kings of Atlantis. Avallach, her father, is a wise and noble king, yet he faces a dilemma with one of the neighboring kings. This king issues a threat to Avallach. Charis is ignorant of the politics going on behind her father’s doors, and she is surprised when this enemy takes away something very important to her. Charis tries to overcome her grieve by becoming a bull dancer. Her troubles still follow her. Until she is faced with a choice: does she leave or stay? Meanwhile in other kingdom we find another king grooming his son, Elphin, to eventually take over. The clan member disagree as Elphin seems to walk into trouble wherever he goes. Until one day Elphin discovers an abandoned baby who brings joy to everyone around him. The baby is called Taliesin.

My Thoughts –

To start I wanted to say I have been so busy lately it has been a bit hard to post as much as I wanted to. I am hoping to do more soon.

And now back to the book πŸ™‚ I really enjoyed this one. While it took me awhile to get through it, (not the books fault) I loved the way the author engages the reader. He writes in a way that draws you in and brings this story to life. I know I have talked a lot about the Arthurian legend, but this one is one of the best versions I have read. Its much better then the Once and Future king which was a bit disjointed. This flowed much smoother. Review for that book here: http://www.pagestoremember.com/2020/06/19/review-for-the-once-and-future-king/

I have to mention the characters who were amazing!! Now in the first section, I cannot say that I liked Charis. She was pretty childish and naive, but she changes and grows up a bit. By the second section, I liked her a lot better! However, the two characters who I loved were Elphin and Taliesin. Elphin starts out an outcast to become a great leader among his people. I totally connected with this character. Taliesin was unique; he grows up too, but even when he is little, he has wisdom beyond his years. There was a side character who I also thought added to the story named Dyfed. He is one of the few believers in the book and brings some much needed changes.

I do want to mention that many of the characters follow a variety of gods/goddesses. The Britons follow the druids with their host of gods while the Atlanteans follow a multitude with Bel being the foremost god. The author depicts what they believe, but not in way that supports it. He shows how these false gods will get you nowhere. Later on he introduces Christians who spread the Gospel. We see how the one true God can bring light to the darkness and peace to someone who is distressed.

For the most part the plot had a pace to it and the climax did not feel rushed. I do have to say that I had an inkling to how it would end, but the author did it in a colorful and fresh way. The way Lawhead writes is lyrical almost. I always wanted to have the next chapter be continue with the same person’s story instead of jumping to the other person. However, I got used to it and just allowed myself to sit back and see where it led.

Language – None, except for one use of the word for donkey (used in that context not as expletive)

Violence – There was a minor amount. A few people are killed with maybe a handful of mentions related to blood. Mostly people who are wounded. A king is stabbed and dies. Reference to wars and battles with Irish/Pict. For the most part all battles are off the page. So we really only see the effects of the battles. Many people die when Atlantis sinks. A boat runs over small fishing boats which kills many people. A character dies from an arrow. A baby is born blue and almost dies, but it brought to life. Also, a women goes into early labor; she bleeds almost passes out. Later on once she has the baby mentions of blood on sheets. Most of this not detailed, just told that it happened in a very matter of fact way.

Innuendo – We have several couples get married. Two references to consummating a marriage. Several kisses, all after the couples are married. A married couple falls asleep together. Also, mentions of a mother nursing her baby or being placed on her breast to feed. (Again just Lawhead mentions it happened, but leaves it at that).

Conclusion –

I truly loved this book!! It has a defined plot line unlike King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I have read many of Lawhead’s other books and knew I enjoyed his writing style, and was not disappointed. There were so many beautiful sections! Also, we get to see a character’s redemption which was wonderful as we see how utterly lost this character is. I love it when author pull off a convicting and believable conversion. So many times it seems to just be out of the blue. Anyway, I highly recommend this book!! Especially if you enjoy a good fantasy or are looking to step foot in the Arthurian legend. I would probably say teen on up as I can see a middle schooler getting pretty bored. πŸ˜‰

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Review for Between Burning Worlds

Between Burning Worlds by Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Genre – Science Fiction, Les Miserables retelling

Series – Book 2 in the System Divine series

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and language

Synopsis –

It has been several weeks since we last saw Marcellus, Chatine, and Alouette. Things have gone from bad to worse for Chatine. She protected the mysterious group called the Vanguarde from General Bonnefacon, and because of that, she is sent to the remote prison, Bastille. She feels that there is no escaping from Bastille as it is an impenetrable place. Meanwhile Marcellus has joined the Vanguarde and is endeavoring to stop his grandfather from unleashing a new weapon upon the citizens of Laterre. Yet, General Bonnefacon figures out what Marcellus is up to and makes an attempt on Marcellus’s life. On the other side of the planet, Alouette is running away from her past. She has been lied to about her past; so she seeks answers that she so desperately needs. Will these three rebels find what they seek before a new enemy appears?

My Thoughts –

This book stood out compared to Sky without Stars as it felt more like it own story as opposed to a new version of Les Miserables. While Sky without Stars does a great job of setting the stage, Between Burning Worlds takes things a step farther. Honestly, it didn’t feel like the story of Les Miserables at all. There were maybe a few scenes that reminded me a bit like Les Miserables. Overall though I could just sit back and take it as new story which I loved.

There were so many good parts to this book. You are thrown into the plot at a brisk pace that keeps up through the majority of the book. There really weren’t any dull parts. Pacing was well done by the authors. The plot was also pretty intricate with lots of moving parts. Several twists occurred that surprised me as I had thought that I had it figured out. I didn’t. πŸ˜‰

I enjoyed the characters quite a bit; they have grown up and changed since we last saw them. Marcellus is still my favorite character. He is likeable for a spoiled rich boy, but also fairly humble. He cares about his friends and bears their burdens on his own back. I still liked Alouette, but not as much as I did in the first book. Some of the secrets that she has uncovered have shaken her beliefs. It takes a while before she can recover. I like her quiet spirit, and how all the knowledge she has learned from the refuge has a purpose. I have to say that I like her and Marcellus together. Although it seems that the authors might do something different. I have mixed feelings about Chatine. I liked her developmental arc, but she still wasn’t my favorite.

I also appreciated Marcellus’s compassion for others including his evil grandfather as Marcellus hates violence and killing. There was one scene where I kept expecting Jolras to burst into singing “ABC Cafe”. πŸ™‚

Language – Maybe 7 uses of mild swearing. Also, the authors made up some of their own expletives that our characters say including: fric and sols. Used infrequently throughout the book.

Violence – There is quite a bit of violence in this one. I kinda expected it as it is a retelling of a revolution. Lots of shooting with pulse like guns affecting your nerves that wears off in a couple hours. A character gets shot with bullets and bleeds. Mentions of fixing a machine that is similar to a guillotine expect with a lazer instead of blade. A character dies from this machine. There is another group called Red Scar that brands people with a lazer. The new weapon consists of manipulating people to hurt/kill other people. Happens several times and many people die because of it.

Innuendo – Less then the first book. You can kinda see that a couple characters like each other. But that is about it.

Also, there was a mention of 2 guys as a couple. Mention that they kissed. I was kinda upset about this as they were such minor characters. You could tell the authors did it to make a statement. I don’t agree with that particular lifestyle as the Bible speaks out against that particular behavior. Kinda sad they added it in there, but thankfully only maybe a sentence or two where it’s mentioned.

Other – Several mentions of blood bordals which is where a women is paid to have nutrients in the blood extracted from her. These nutrients end up going into the First Estaters facial creams. A character unwillingly has this happen to her.

Conclusion –

Despite the issues mentioned, I got swept up in the story. Some characters did grow on me, and the authors did a great describing this world. Made it feel like you were there with the characters. I truly liked Marcellus’s character; he had the perfect balance between being flawed, yet still making a difference. Not to say that there weren’t issues that bugged me, but overall I enjoyed it. I love it when an author is able to describe things in such a way that you can visualize it in your head. These authors accomplish this. Age range probably older teens to young adult as book is over 600 pages plus content issues.

How are your summers going? Any exciting books being read? Looking forward to hearing from you all!!

Anna

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Review for Murder at Hatfield House

Murder at Hatfield House by Amanda Carmack

Genre – Historical fiction, Mystery

Series – First book in the Elizabethan Mysteries

Rating – PG – for Mild language and violence

Synopsis –

Kate and her father are the musicians for princess Elizabeth who is quietly residing at Hatfield house after her sister’s ascension to the throne. Yet, trouble is brewing when a courier from the Queen suddenly appears with a dead servant. He demands to search the premise in search of banned religious materials. Kate’s life becomes difficult, but Elizabeth trusts Kate to find out who killed the servant. Will Kate be able to figure out what is going on before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

Hmm. What to say about this book??!! I cannot say that I really liked this book; however there were some good parts to it. I enjoyed the whole history behind princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey as it had been a while since I had read about this time period. So it was nice to step back in and learn a little bit about the political upheaval of this time. The author also does a decent job of characterizing Elizabeth and Anthony.

Nevertheless I do have a couple quibbles. First, the writing style. The majority of the language in the book is very modern, and didn’t feel right for England in 1558. I get that writing in older English can be tricky to write, but I feel like the author could have tried to add some phrases used back in that time period to make it less modern sounding.

Secondly, I do not like the main character. Maybe that is just me, but she felt like every other heroine in a cozy mystery. Nothing really stood her apart for me. I wanted to like Kate, but I just couldn’t.

There were several good things about Murder at Hatfield House. It held by attention enough that I cruised through this novel in a little over a day. The plot moved along at a decent pace, and there were some good themes like kindness and standing up for what is right. I enjoyed the descriptions of how Protestantism was changing England politically and how it varied from Catholicism. The mystery started out quite interesting, but began to wobble by the end. The conclusion confused me a bit, and overall the book was fairly clean which I appreciated.

Language – Infrequent mild language, with a couple exclamations of “God’s wounds” or other similar phrases.

Violence – Overall, pretty mild. Several characters are killed by arrows. A few mentions of blood either on clothes or the ground. A character gets shoved and left in a locked room.

Innuendo – Two kisses on the hand (pretty common for back then) and a bit about developing feelings for character.

Conclusion –

Carmack wrote about an interesting time in history, and there is lots to learn from it. There were a few characters that I liked, but most felt flat to me. This novel would make for a nice beach read when you want something light and breezy. Murder at Hatfield House is aimed more at YA age range as main character is 18. Give this a go if you enjoy the Elizabethan era, or are looking for a new cozy series.

Cannot wait to hear how you all are doing!! Do you enjoy cozy mysteries? How is your June going? What Have you been reading lately?

Anna

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Review for The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King by T. H. White

Genre – Fantasy, Romance, Classic

Stand-alone novel

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and mild innuendo

Synopsis –

The story begins with a boy named Arthur or Wart as that is the nickname they gave him. Wart lives with Sir Ector and his his son Kay as no one knows who Wart’s parents were. When Wart’s tutor quits quite unexpectedly, he goes on a quest to find a new one. He encounters Merlyn, a wise wizard, in the forest and brings him back to the castle. Merlyn instructs both Kay and Arthur for many years. As part of Wart’s instruction, Merlyn transforms him into various animals in order to teach him valuable lessons. Many years pass before one day Wart pulls a sword out of a stone to give to Kay. This leads to his eventually becoming king. Once Arthur becomes king, he has many adventures in trying to bring unity to England. He brings together a group of knights to reform England. Will Arthur and his band of knights be able to bring unity before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

First off, The Once and Future King is composed of four separate books. They all kinda go together, but they each tell a separate section of Arthur’s life. For some reason it took me quite a while to read this. Not sure exactly why??! Just glad I finally finished!! Overall, it gave an interesting look at King Arthur that is different from the previous books I had read. This was more personal. We could hear what went on his head and his conversations with those around him. Unlike King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which focused more on telling a legend. I enjoyed this book more!

The characterization in this was great! You could see these characters and feel for them. They felt more human compared to some other tellings which make them out to be legends. I actually liked Lancelot’s character, which was weird for me because in the past I kinda hated how arrogant he was. White does a great job of making this flawed hero conflicted and torn about some his past decisions. Arthur also has some great development that occurs throughout the book. We spent the most time with Arthur and see him transform from boy to wizened king. The one character that was a thorn in my side was Guenever. Her character just didn’t sit well with me. Something about how she is portrayed, but I can’t put my finger on it. The four Orkney brothers while childish at times, were fine, it was just Guenever that didn’t belong.

The plot was slower as it kinda built up the characters from the ground up. We get introduced to many of them while they were still young. So there were a few sections that truly dragged on. One especially slow section was Wart being an ant!! It had no connection to the actual plot! Also, a few political sections that felt like they went on forever!

White has quite the sense of humor. Especially in the first two books he would break the third person narrative and jump to first person. He would then try to describe something using modern terms. I kinda liked this. There was one particularly humorous scene with the Questing Beast and King Pellinore where I truly laughed out loud! πŸ˜‰

I would not call this a Christian book, despite the fact that there are many Christian themes and several characters are considered Christians. The author makes a couple references to evolution and some hints that God might not exist. You can tell the author has a different view then some of the characters. It isn’t shoved in your face though, and oddly enough he does quote from the Bible.

Language – There is some mild language throughout the book. Mostly the same two words used over and over.

Violence – Honestly, there wasn’t much despite this being a book about knights. Yes, there a few battles or tournaments where knights get injured, but not described. Knights knock each other out with their sword. Maybe a mention or two of blood on the grass. There are a couple jousts to the death. Again not much description just a blurb that they died. There is a scene where a women is tied to a stake to be burnt to death for infidelity (She gets rescued).

Innuendo – First, I’ll mention that there are a couple times where the author describes a knight as being naked and then later mentions him having clothes on. So I believe it means that they didn’t have armor not that they were truly naked. Second, is Lancelot’s and Guenever’s relationship. In this story, Arthur is warned beforehand that he should watch out. He dismisses the warning and pays for it. Lancelot hates Guenever until an event occurs where he hurts Guenever’s feelings. This is what sparks him to fall in love with her. Lancelot’s uncle calls him out on it, but Lancelot doesn’t listen. They kiss several times and many characters try to tell the King that Lancelot is sleeping with his wife. Lancelot tries to end it on multiple occasions. Lastly, there are a couple mentions of other character’s infidelity, just brief mentions.

Conclusion –

This gives a good look at Arthur and how he truly wanted to change England for the better. We get to see what makes these classic character tick. There is also a brief history lesson thrown in which I enjoyed. If you want a book that focuses on a smaller cast of Arthurian characters, this is a good choice. While it has some content issues, overall a well done fantasy!

Cannot wait to hear what you all are reading!! Have you read any King Arthur stories? Any favorite retellings?

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Review for The Jerusalem Assassin

The Jerusalem Assassin by Joel Rosenberg

Genre – Political Thriller, Christian Fiction, Suspense

Series – 3rd book in the Marcus Ryker Series

Rating – PG-13 for Suspense and violence

Synopsis –

Marcus Ryker is looking forward to some rest and recuperation after having just returned from a dangerous mission. After working many years in the Secret Service he is transferred to secretly work of the CIA. As he is learning the ropes, an unknown organization begins killing key members of the U.S. government. Marcus begins to suspect something big is a foot. Meanwhile the President is organizing a peace summit between Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Will Marcus be able to figure out who is behind the assassinations before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

I have been reading Joel Rosenberg’s books for years! So when I heard he was coming out with the next book in this series, I was thrilled. Rosenberg usually writes about 1 book a year. So my mom and I are always trying to remember what had occurred in the previous book. It had been such a long time since I had read The Persian Gamble that I had forgotten just about everything. For the most part Rosenberg does a great job juggling the political aspects with suspense and action.

Now I have to say that overall this series was one of my favorites. Most of his previous books take place in Israel or the Middle East like his J. B. Collins series which got a little repetitive. So I appreciated having this series focus more on Russia. It felt fresh and different. The Kremlin Conspiracy was probably my favorite of the three books in the Marcus Ryker series. It felt like something out of a Jason Bourne movie.

This newest installment was a wee bit of a let down. Not to say that it was bad, but it defiantly felt slower and more politically based then character based. Most of the book takes place in closed door meetings with either our bad guys or good guys. So not really any character development. Marcus has stayed the same throughout much of this series. I kept hoping that we would see a change in him or find out more about his past. I also wanted to see more of Peter Hwang or Oleg Kraskin, but these characters kinda got sidelined.

Oleg Kraskin is one of my favorite characters in this series. We got to know him so well during the previous two books and I was looking forward to seeing how he did, now that he was in America. There was one great scene between Marcus and Oleg that made me really happy. We get to hear Marcus be a little more open about his faith and ask Oleg about what his beliefs were.

Despite being labeled as Christian fiction, there is not much Christian content in this series. Honestly, it did not bug me too much as Marcus himself is kinda a quiet person. In The Jerusalem Assassin, we do see Marcus praying or reading his Bible.

I do want to mention that so many of the Middle Eastern characters have similar names. At first I struggled telling who was who. It got better later on. The end fell nicely together and I liked how Rosenberg paced the end.

Language – Two different uses of mild language.

Violence –

Honestly, compared to some of his other books, I felt that the violence was toned down a bit. There are several shootouts. One takes place at a church and a character dies. Several people are wounded and end up in the hospital. A character kills one of the intruders and incapacitates another. Later on we have a character who has surgery to place a bomb inside her. She is a suicide bomber and willingly goes to her dead. In the bombing she kills 23 people and injures many more. A couple mentions of blood and body parts exploding in the air. Lastly, we have another character who has a similar surgery to implant a bomb in his chest. Several characters are killed.

Innuendo – Really only a mention of a character liking another character. That it.

Conclusion –

I always love a good political or action thriller, so it was nice to step back into Rosenberg’s series. Although I cannot say it was my favorite, I had a hard time putting it down. My mom and I had to take turns, which was tough especially for the action sequences. Rosenberg gives us an interesting look at what could happen if there was peace in Israel. Overall an enjoyable read, but would highly recommend reading these books in order. πŸ˜‰

So over to you guys! What books have you been reading? Read any of Rosenberg’s books? Have a favorite?

Anna

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Review for The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

Genre – Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Series – Standalone novel

Rating – PG – Thematic elements

Synopsis –

Valancy Stirling is tired of being told what to do. She lives with her mother and her aunt who prefer nothing to change. They do not even allow Valancy to move things around her room. So on Valancy’s 29 birthday she decides to change things up a bit. She gives up pretending to enjoy things she hates, and do things in her own way. Which may lead to Valancy finding her own Blue Castle. Will her family be able to understand her?

My thoughts –

I really enjoyed this novel!! It felt different then the Anne series. I almost thought it was written by a different writer. The Blue Castle is aimed at adults and has more of a grown up feel to it. It also takes place after the Anne books as things are more modern. Several characters have cars and there are movies playing as well.

I really connected with Valancy’s character. She feels like she has done nothing productive and for her self in her life. Her family is overbearing and she is the women who is always in the shadows. Then she gets a letter that changes everything and gives Valancy a new look on life. I liked Valancy’s growth and change throughout the story. She takes a step and helps someone else who is suffering. She even makes quit a sacrifice for someone she loves. I could just relate to this story.

There are many descriptions of nature and scenery. It felt like you were outdoors, fishing and exploring with these characters.

There is quite a variety of interesting characters thrown into this story. I actually liked Roaring Abel, despite his drinking. He was one of the few honest characters and told it like it is. Cissy is such a sweet character. She has had such a hard life and I loved how Valancy befriends her. Barney was odd. It took a while to actually like him as a character. Towards the end though, he and Valancy had a strong relationship.

Although the plot was a little slow, there was some charm to it. There is not much action and mostly all character driven. It was nice to have a book that was about normal everyday events, but some sections were a wee bit boring. The end has a couple firecrackers that were surprising. Someone should make this into a TV series or movie.

Language – Mentions of people swearing, no actual words though. Maybe 2 uses of mild language.

Violence – None

Innuendo – Valancy attends a back woods party where there is drinking and dancing. A couple men try to force her to dance with them. Barney ends up coming in and saving Valancy. The town busybodies gossip about Valancy and Barney. Two characters kiss and get married.

Conclusion –

If you love the Anne series and are looking for something with a similar feel, I would recommend this book!! It has a different flavor to it, but it is a sweet story. Sometimes you need an uplifting book like this.

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Review for The Tale of Briar Bank

The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Historical fiction, Mystery, Fantasy

Series – 5th book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – Peril and mild violence

Synopsis –

Beatrix Potter has returned to her house at Hill Top farm. She is looking forward to spending some time in the country. Yet, when she arrives, the town is in an uproar. Mr. Wickstead has met an untimely death by the form of a tree. The villagers believe it is a curse, while Constable Braithwaite is not so sure. He has noticed some unusual marking on the tree. One of the witnesses to the event is a badger named Bailey, but of course he has no way of telling the humans what exactly he saw. Will Miss Potter be able to get to the bottom of this mystery before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

I have so enjoyed this series!! And this book is one of the better ones. The previous book, The Tale of Hawthorn House, was bit odd and disjointed. The Tale of Briar Bank flowed much better and the animals were much more likeable. There was Norse theme throughout which I liked. I have always enjoyed Norse history/mythology. One of the animals we are introduced to is a dragon named Thorvaald. He was so sweet and odd. It was hard not to like him.

Another new element is Miss Potter and Mr. Heelis’s blossoming friendship. Many years before Miss Potter’s fiance had died quiet suddenly and ever since she has been grieving her loss. So it was wonderful to see her start to move on after four books. πŸ™‚

The villagers are so quirky and odd. You have the usual gossip that spreads like wildfire and villagers falsely believing characters are a couple. They complement their town so well. The author does a wonderful job bringing this English countryside to life. You can picture the lakes and hills in your head. It reminds me a bit of the characters in the BBC show Doc Marin.

The author also breaks the third person wall and speaks right to the reader. She does this frequently throughout the book which I enjoyed. It made it seem like we were co-conspirators invading the town. πŸ˜‰ Albert would tell the reader that, “So you and I shall not stand idly by and wait whilst Will examines the photographs and eats his lunch. Instead we shall take ourselves up to The Brockery. . .” (Albert, p. 144). I think this is a great way to connect to readers, especially when done the right way.

Albert, Susan Wittig. The Tale of Briar Bank. Berkley Publishing Group, New York. 2008.

Language – None

Violence – A character is killed by the top of a tree. A dragon tries to hurt a badger by its fire. Badger gets singed arm.

Innuendo – The villagers believe that 2 characters are a couple and possibly engaged. (all false). Two different characters begin to develop a romantic relationship. Very mild.

Conclusion –

This was a lovely addition to the series. It was delightful to be able to visit the small town of Near Sawrey again. I highly recommend this series as it is something the whole family could enjoy. The author does a great job of keeping them pretty clean which is wonderful. Plus you get to learn some of the history surrounding Beatrix Potter.

Have you read any book in this series? What are you currently reading? Cannot wait to hear from you all!!

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Review for War of Swords

War of Swords by D. Barkley Briggs

Genre – Christian fiction, fantasy, YA

Series – 5th & final book in the Legends of Karac Tor

Rating – PG for violence and scary creatures

Synopsis –

The four Barlow brothers have been in Karac Tor for 2 years now. They have all grown up so much since following the ravens through the tunnel. They are about to enter into a battle not only to fight for their lives, but for the whole realm. Kr’Nunos is assembling an army of twisted and evil creatures to ransack and take over the land. As the Barlow’s fight for their lives, they are about to confront their greatest fear – losing someone they love. Will these brothers be able to stand firm against the incoming onslaught?

My Thoughts –

Yea!! I finally finished this series!! It took me a while to finish this. I think I started this series back in the summer of last year. Now that the library is somewhat open, I can now finally get books!! Anyway, this was an interesting conclusion to this series.

Honestly, I did not remember many of the characters as it has been awhile since I read the previous books. So I was a little lost. I spent a good chunk of the book trying to remember who everyone was. Weirdly enough, the author did not summarize what had happened previously. There were a couple characters I still don’t remember how they met the main characters. Also, I believe there is a gap between this book and previous one as now it has been 2-3 years since the first book. The author did provide a glossary of names at the back of the book which helped a lot.

One thing I really like about this series is that it incorporates the Arthurian legend. We have Arthur, and a mention of Tal Yssen (basically Merlin). I have kinda been on a Arthurian legend binge what with watching Merlin and recently reading a couple different stories. So I enjoyed Arthur being a key person in this story.

Of the brothers, I really only connected with Hadyn and Ewan Barlow. I think part of the reason that I didn’t like Gabe or Garret was they just felt soo young. There were a couple sections where the writing felt like it was aimed at middle-schoolers. I can’t quite put my finger on it, it just felt childish at times. Maybe I am just getting used to reading high fantasy. I don’t know.

The allegory was strong in this one. Pun intended. πŸ˜‰ Aion (basically a Jesus character) is the high prince of Isgurd (heaven). His followers have to trust him despite Aion being across the sea. Kr’Nunos was a Satan like character. He had corrupted certain people groups who before the song had turned their backs on Aion. Bits of it reminded me of the last book in the Left Behind series. As it is the final battle.

Language – None

Violence – As there are battles throughout the book, there are some descriptions of the fights. Most of these descriptions are well kept within a PG rating though. Many characters get wounded/die. A couple mentions of the ground being covered with blood. There is a sea battle where ships get destroyed by a hurricane/ bombs. Characters shoot arrows/get shot by arrows. Several descriptions of the evil creatures called Goths and Ravers and their powers.

Innuendo – Very little, a few kisses between a few couples. One couple gets married.

Conclusion –

This was a great conclusion to this series. It feels so good to have finished this series. There were some great themes like loyalty, faith, and sacrifice. Most of the characters stood for what was right despite difficult situations. I would have no problem giving this to a middle-schooler or teen. If you are looking for a new fantasy series to read, this one would be a great choice.

Have you heard of this series? Which is your favorite book? How is your May going?

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Review for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Middle-grade, Christian fiction, fantasy

Series – 3rd in The Chronicles of Narnia series

Rating – PG for fantasy violence and mild language

Synopsis –

Edmund and Lucy are sent to stay with their aunt and uncle for the summer. They are both dreading it as their cousin Eustace is a brat. Surprisingly, during their stay there, they are transported to Narnia. Edmund and Lucy are rejoiced to meet up with King Caspian, who they met on their previous trip to Narnia. Caspian is out searching for the 7 lost lords who were banished in Miraz’s reign. Will the Pevensie’s be able to help Caspian find the missing lords?

My thoughts –

This is one of my favorite books in this series. Its filled with adventure, fantastical creatures, and redemption. In my opinion this book has faster pace compared to the previous two books. It is packed with a lot of adventures in a short book. Prince Caspian, on the other hand, is focused more on developing the characters.

There is a myriad of different characters. More so then in Prince Caspian. I remember when my mom read this years ago, loving the Dufflepuds. I still thought the Dufflepuds were hilarious during this reread!! I also remember loving Eustace’s character arc. Eustace is one of my favorite characters. For some reason I really like him as a character more so then the Pevensies. Plus there are dragons!! Who doesn’t love dragons!!

The plot is quite a bit different from the movie. I do like the movie, but is cuts some of the best scenes and messes with the timeline of events. Yet, I think they cast Eustace perfectly. Will Poulter nailed the complaining, whining, and selfish cousin. The way the movie pulled off his development was great. Especially the end! πŸ˜‰

I loved how Eustace’s redemption showed that we cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we try. He needed Aslan to do the hard work of cleansing him. Very reminiscent of a believer accepting Christ and the transformation that follows. Despite being cleansed by Aslan, Eustace would still sometimes revert back to his old self. This is just like a Christian’s walk. We are eventually going to mess up. We are not perfect. Anyway, I just thought this was a good reminder.

Violence –

Very little, a slave trader captures some characters and endeavors to sell them. (He treats them well). There are a couple sword fights, no real injuries. A character gets sea sick. 3 characters are put to sleep after trying hurt one another. A sea monster attacks the ship. One character falls overboard.

Language – Roughly 5 uses of mild language. Same word used.

Innuendo – None, a mention of a character getting married.

Conclusion –

It has been so much fun to go back and reread these books!! It makes me want to go back and re-watch the movies. I love the characters in this book and the whole adventure on the high seas feel to it. Adventures are funny things. You never know where it will take you or where you will end up. I highly recommend The Chronicles of Narnia to anyone!

Have you read these books? If so, which one is your favorite? Do you like Eustace?

Anna

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Review for Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Genre – YA fiction, Contemporary

Series – There are a few characters from some of his previous book, but it is Stand-alone.

Rating – PG – mild language and mild innuendo

Synopsis –

Jack’s parents have decided to foster a boy named Joseph, who has a messy past. He has been to prison, hurt a teacher, and has a daughter. Joseph has gone through things that no 14 year old should go through. Yet, the Hurd’s still want to foster him. Will Joseph and Jack get along? Will the Hurd’s be able to help Joseph?

My Thoughts –

First, I want to mention that, yeah, a 14 year old had a daughter. This all happened in the past so we only get bits and pieces of what happened. I don’t support what Joseph did in any way, but the author does a great job dealing with this topic.

It is a short book only about 200 p. So a easy read. Honestly, it was a breathe of fresh air compared to Atlas Shrugged. Middle-grade fiction can pack a lot in a tiny package. I read this in 2 days. Well, the first chapter on like Tuesday, then read the rest on Wednesday.

I loved this one!! Schmidt does a great job writing from a 12 year old’s perspective!! I had previously listened to 2 other books by this author: Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. Both were amazing! They take place back in the late 60s. He makes his characters believable which I love. He also sprinkles bits of humor throughout.

The characters were so well done! I love it when authors show parents in a positive light. In Orbiting Jupiter, the parents are so supportive of Jack and Joseph. They want to make a difference in Joseph’s life, and give him something he never had: a loving home. Also Mr. D’Ulney was such a great teacher. He found something Joseph was good at and decided to water that talent. Coach Swieteck is from Okay for Now. It was so neat to see him in this book, although it is a small appearance.

It took me a while to like Joseph as a character. Schmidt only had Joseph talk a handful of times. Most of what we find out about Joseph is from Jack’s perspective. It made me so happy that Joseph loved Jupiter and wanted to be apart of her life!

I would not say this is a Christian book, but there was one scene where the family went to church on Christmas. We hear how Jesus was born. A character asks how can God allow bad things to happen. We see the difference in Joseph’s life after meeting Jack and his family. First, sin entered the world though humans, not though God. Also, God and use hard times and the sinful choices we make for good. If we give our life to him, we can be transformed. While this wasn’t in the book per se, but I think it still applies.

Overall the plot is super simple. Joseph moving in and his stay with the Hurd’s, but it works so well!! Not gonna lie, the ending surprised me. It brought tears to my eyes. At first, I was mad at the author, but once I read the end, it was worth it.

Language – Mild language, really only used maybe 4 times. Also there is a brief conversation about freezing your balls off. (Boys talking about falling in a river) only a few sentences. A couple mentions of Jack hearing words he is not allowed to say.

Violence – We find out gradually that Joseph’s dad abused him. During a conversation Joseph had, he talked about how his face was bruised. That is about it. Not detailed, but just enough to know it happened. The author showed things, instead of telling them. Also, there is a fight at school which leads to a couple characters with bruises and a bloody nose.

Two characters fall into a river. Its a rather tense moment. Jack says he say a dog drown in the river once. Joseph has a scar the runs from his side all the way down to his knee. Also there’s a car accident with a few character’s deaths.

Innuendo – Very tastefully done. Once kiss mentioned. We find out in the first sentence that Joseph has a daughter. Joseph went to Madeline’s house over a summer when her parents were not home. A little bit of talk about falling in love.

Conclusion –

While there are a few content issues, I really enjoyed it!! I probably wouldn’t give this to a middle schooler, despite the fact, that that is the target range. There were many positives elements that made up for the content issues. Overall, I think Orbiting Jupiter was well worth the read! In fact I read bits of it twice! Just goes to show you how much I liked it. πŸ˜‰ Bring some Kleenex as its a tearjerker.

Have you read any book by Gary D. Schmidt? What are your favorites? Do you like Orbiting Jupiter?

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Sherlock Blog Party

So Thunderbird Queen https://www.thewinchesternorthstar.net/2020/05/tag-of-ten-sherlock-blog-party-2020.html

and Miss Woodhouse http://notesfromahartfieldgirl.blogspot.com/2020/05/what-say-you-to-blog-party.html are hosting a Sherlock blog party throughout the month of May. I think is such a fun idea. Especially since Sherlock is one of my favorite shows!! One of the first posts asked some Would you rather questions. Thunderbird Queen said that we could copy her questions. So here they are!

~ A Tag of Ten ~
Would You Rather….
1. Spend a day with Sherlock or John?

Honestly, although John is such a kind and patient friend, I think it would be more fun to spend a day with Sherlock. Watson is a doctor so I would have to follow him around with his patients, while Sherlock would be out and about getting clues. So Sherlock.

2. Watch the first episode or last episode?

This is such a hard question. I have re-watched both of these episodes multiple times. I’m gonna say the Final Problem. It is such an emotional episode, but I love how it ends!

3. Have Sherlock’s mind or John’s compassion?

Sherlock’s mind is incredible and he can processes information so quickly, but I think I would go mad. πŸ˜‰ So I would rather have John’s compassion. Plus compassion is such a much needed character trait.

4. Work with Molly or Lestrade?

Both of their jobs are kinda gross. I mean I definitely don’t want to be apart of an autopsy, but finding dead bodies on the street isn’t great either. I am gonna go on character here. I would much rather spend time with Molly. She has such a kind, sweet personality and it would be fun to hang out.

5.Face off against Moriarty or Magnussen?

Ugh, both of these villains are horrible!! But, I detest Magnussen more. So I guess I’ll face off Moriarty.

6. Be best friends with Molly or Mary?

Can I be friends with both? These are both wonderful women. Mary does so much to help John, and has a great personality. Molly is the quiet geek who helps behind the scenes. If I can’t say both, I guess Molly. Especially with Mary’s background, it might not be a good idea to get to close. Her friends don’t last long.

7. Prevent the events of The Recheinbach Fall or The Six Thatchers?

Both of these events are emotional and have some drastic consequences. Due to Recheinbach, John thinks Sherlock is dead, but in The Six Thatchers, Mary dies and John’s emotional collapse. So I guess The Six Thatchers.

8. Deal with a grumpy Sherlock or a grumpy Mycroft?

Sherlock can get quite childish when he is grumpy. Avoids people, lays around all day and is very selfish. I would rather deal with a grumpy Mycroft as he will probably hide at his club and I won’t have to deal with him. πŸ™‚

9. Ride in Mrs. Hudson’s car or Mycroft’s helicopter?

Helicopter please! I have only been on a small 5 person plane once and I loved it. So I think going on Mycroft’s helicopter would be epic!

10. Babysit Rosie or help plan the Watson wedding?

Easy!! Babysit Rosie! She is so cute and it would be so much fun to babysit her.

Bonus: Which version of “Sherlock Lives” scenarios would you choose to make canon?

Again, this one is easy. Sherlock and Molly! Although in the books Sherlock never gets a girlfriend, I think Molly’s relationship with him is cute.

Have you seen Sherlock? Have any favorite episodes?

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Art contest

So a shout out to Middle Earth Musician who is hosting an art contest this week. http://musicmysterymiddlearthandmitochondria.blogspot.com/ My sisters has been doing a lot of artwork throughout this quarantine. I am going to call them F and B for personal reasons. I figured I would post some of their work, since I am not an artist by any means. Not sure if it counts for the competition, but I think they are pretty cool. Note – I asked permission before posting their artwork. πŸ™‚

#1 Jack and Katherine from Newsies by F.

She drew this the past week. After we had recently rewatched Newsies for a 3rd time. πŸ˜‰ I thought that it had a neat perspective as drawn from behind.

#2 Princess Leia from Star Wars by F.

Not sure when she drew this one, but I believe it was within the past month. She is really into Star Wars and has done many with Rey and Kylo, but I really liked how this one was looked.

#3 Marvel’s Civil War characters by B.

This was done by one of other sisters. I believe she did this back when Civil War came out. It was our first Marvel movie that we saw in theaters.

Have you been doing any artwork? If so what did you draw?

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6 Movies and Shows I’ve watched recently

As I am still reading Atlas Shrugged (such a long book), I figured I would do a post about some movies/shows that I have been watching. I’ll start out with some family-friendly options, then move on to some more adult. I have done one of these posts before back in 2019. Link here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2019/07/21/my-current-top-5-tv-shows/

1 Onward

Genre – Fantasy/family

Rating – PG

Synopsis- In a time when magic has all but disappeared, there lives 2 elf brothers Ian and Barley. Ian is a quiet and reserved high schooler who just wants to fit in, while his brother, Barley, is a fun-loving geek. They embark on a quest to bring back their dad for a day.

My Thoughts –

This was such a cute movie!! There were several interesting themes throughout. First, family! Both of the parents are shown in a great light, very supportive of their children. In a lot of movies, parents are shown to be stupid or not able to understand what their children are going through. So I appreciated having parents who actually care. Second theme, becoming who you are meant to be. Both Ian and Barley are teenagers and trying to figure out how they fit into the world. I am not going to say much more as I don’t want to spoil it.

Content – Overall this movie is pretty clean. Definitely one for a family movie night. There is some mild cartoon violence and a bit of name calling, but surprisingly not a lot of potty humor. Also a bit sad as talking about how to deal with someone who has passed. Side note- there is some use of magic and using a spell.

Moving on to number 2.

#2 Newsies

Genre – Musical, Historical

Rating – PG – Mild Language

Synopsis –

Jack Kelly is the leader of the Newsies who make a living by selling papers. When Pulitzer decides to raise the price of the papers, the Newsies go on strike. With the help of Davey and Katherine, they get an article in the papers. Will that be enough to end the strike?

My Thoughts –

So a couple years ago I saw the original 1992 Newsies movie and loved it. Later on I found out there was a Broadway version available. Last fall I finally watched it, and it was AMAZING!! A really well done musical! The new numbers the added really helped, and I liked how the gave Jack a bit more back story.

The characters are fantastic and it is based on a true story. The first time I saw it, I didn’t care for Katherine, but now that I have re-watched it a several times, she has grown on me. Jeremy Jordan aka. Jack Kelly can really sing. This would also make for great family movie night!!

Content – Not much there. Jack and Davey use some mild language a couple times. There are a couple fights, but its all choreographed and more cheesy. Characters kiss a few times. A mention of girls not wearing pants (they were in a custom with tights).

3 White Collar

Genre – Crime/Drama/Comedy

Rating – PG – for violence and language

Synopsis –

Neal Caffery is a conman and a good one at that. He also is a thief who steals/forges artwork. In a deal to reduce his jail time, Neal works for an FBI agent, Peter Burke, to solve cases and catch other criminals. Neal might just make a few friends along the way.

My Thoughts –

This is a clever and fresh show! It has a fast-moving pace, but it also gives you a look into the white collar crime division. It looks at the possibility of can you reform a conman/thief. I gotta say that this is one of the few shows that highlights a positive marriage. Peter Burke and his wife are shown in a great light. They talk about what is going on in each other’s lives and truly care for one another.

For me I really wanted Neal to come clean and be truly reformed, but it is also really neat to see how he pulls off heists. I’m giving a shout out to Mozzie who is one of the best characters on the show. He provides some much needed comedic relieve. πŸ™‚ Also as a side note I have only seen up through season 4. I am hoping to finish this eventually.

Content – For a show about the FBI, there is not much violence. Yes, there are threats and kidnapping, but its kept pretty tame. From what I remember there is some language, but again not a ton. There are a few episodes where they try to spice it up and give Neal a girlfriend. So a couple scenes that you can fast forward through. I think there might have been one episode we skipped entirely. Note- in season 2 or 3 we find out that a character is a lesbian. I think her partner is only shown in 2-3 episodes, but just a heads up. I don’t agree with how this character lives, but it is only a minor side-line. Overall a fairly clean show, probably more for teens on up.

#4 Merlin

Genre – Fantasy, Adventure, Drama

Rating- PG – Peril, violence, scary creatures Also on amazon it says its TV14, I am not exactly sure why. I think most of the series is within the realm of PG.

Synopsis –

The story takes places before Arthur is king and before Merlin is the famous wizard. King Uther Pendragon has outlawed the use of magic to protect his kingdom. Merlin comes to Camelot in order to hide. He becomes an assistant to Gaius, a doctor. Slowly, it is revealed that Merlin has magical powers. Gaius takes him under his wing and trains him to use these powers for good. Meanwhile, Prince Arthur is a stuck up brat who is training for when he becomes king. Eventually, it is revealed that Merlin and Arthur are connected they impacted each other’s destiny. Will these two be able to come together and fight for what is right?

My Thoughts –

I have always loved the Arthurian legend, and I have a soft spot for fantasy. This brings together the best of both worlds. I just found this series back in March. So I have only made it through the first 2 seasons. Now, it definitely gives the tales a new perspective. As most of the stories are about Arthur when he is king. So don’t except it to follow the books. πŸ˜‰

I love Merlin and Arthur’s relationship. It reminds me of the relationship in Sherlock between Holmes and Watson. They have a fun banter back and forth with many witty remarks. Also Gaius has a lot of wisdom and is a father figure to Merlin. Uther I go back and forth on. He can be such an idiot some time, but then in some episodes we see his love for Arthur and Morgana. Now Morgana is different story. Since I have read/heard some of the legends, I kinda knew where she was headed. Gwen is a great role model, she is sweet, caring, and wants to make a difference in the world.

Now I normally don’t care for books/movies with magic in them, but I have read a few of the books about Merlin and Arthur, so I knew what to expect. This use of magic is a little different. It shows the fight for good /evil. Merlin only uses his magic to save people, mostly Arthur. He also is not showy about it. He doesn’t take the credit he deserves, but stays in the shadows.

Content – Now I can only say what was in season 1&2, but overall not too bad. Only occasional mild language. Some episodes don’t have any. Any violence is mostly cheesy fight scenes with no wounds shown. There are some tense moments where characters are in peril/dying. The ladies sometimes where some low dresses. Several characters are put under a spell that makes them fall in love. A couple characters kiss and talk about falling in love. I think this is another show that will appeal more to teens on up.

#5 1917

Genre – War, Historical, based on true events

Rating – R – Strong language and violence

Synopsis –

Lance Corporal William Schofield and Lieutenant Blake embark on a dangerous mission. From reconnaissance the ally army believes that the Germans have retreated. So Schofield and Blake are commanded by a general to take a message to the Second Battalion that the next morning’s attack is called off. Blake is told that his brother is in the Second Battalion so it becomes a personal matter. If they don’t make it in time, the Germans will slaughter the Battalion.

My Thoughts –

For the most part I stay away from R movies, but when I saw the trailer, this one peaked my interest. It had several actors that I had seen in other movies and the story sounded interesting. Now I looked up the Pluggedin review before I watched this. Use your own judgement on whether to watch or not.

Not gonna lie, but it was amazing!! The story was well told, and the director shot this movie in what looks like 1 continuous shot. I think there were a handful to hidden breaks, but if an actor messed up a line, they would have to go back to the beginning of the scene. The characters had such an emotional journey, that you really felt for them. I felt that it had a journey feel to it, that reminded a bit of The Lord of the Rings. One character in particular showed kindness and determination. I enjoyed it so much that I have seen it twice: once in theaters, once with the family.

It takes place at a sad time in history, and it shows us how war can change us. It a story about loss and what wars can take from us. I felt that it depicted war fairly realistically. We see the characters go hungry, march through mud, and talk of what they miss.

Content- There was some strong language, especially at the beginning as one character has quite the foul mouth,(I’m looking at you Moriarty) but after that it becomes more sporadic. Honestly, there isn’t a ton of dialogue, more focused on the journey. Also, surprisingly there isn’t really a battle scene. Yes, we do see some dead bodies or injured soldiers, but the fighting is more one-on-one combat. Several characters are shot at or stabbed. One scene where we see a medical tent full of injured soldiers. I will say that the violence wasn’t gratuitous. Also no sexual content at all.

Side note – If you love soundtracks, 1917, has a great soundtrack!

Lastly,

#6 Lost

Lost - The Complete First Season

Genre – Adventure, Mystery, Survival

Rating – This one is little bit of a mixed bag of marbles, Some episodes are PG while others are TV14.

Synopsis –

This is a hard show to write a synopsis for as it is so complex. I will give my best go at it. πŸ™‚ It starts off with a plane crash on a isolated island. There are roughly 40 survivors who try to set up a camp and figure out a way off the island. We slowly find out who the survivors are, and how they come to this island. The survivors fight a monster, wild animals, and their biggest threat, the Others. Will they ever make it off the island?

My Thoughts –

Just so you know this is a thinking show. There are many complex layers to this. I would really recommend starting at the beginning, as each episode gives you a little bit more info on what’s going on. Also, I would take this in smaller chunks. Characters who you don’t think matter, end up playing an important part later on. There are main characters who die, so if you don’t like shows that kill off characters, skip this one.

So far, I have really enjoyed this one!! We are currently in season 5. So I can not tell you whether I liked the end or not. There are so many interesting elements. The mystery surrounding the island, is slooowlyy explained. If you have seen Stranger Things, take that and multiply it’s slowness. Yet, it also a reason I like it. It makes you want to keep watching just to figure out what happens.

The characters in the show are also really fascinating. First, they all have flaws!! Every character comes to the island with baggage, whether that be an addiction, workaholic, or a crime record. So don’t expect the characters to be sweet. They do grow and change throughout. There was a few characters I hated, Jin, Sawyer, Locke, to name a few, but they do change for the better. There are some characters you cannot but help love them, Charlie, Desmond, Hurley, and Jack.

I will give a heads up that this show does lots and lots of flashbacks/flash forwards. It takes some getting used to, but overall it helps develop the characters. I would say that I really loved seasons 1&2. Season 4 was also really interesting.

Content – So, to start, the first 2 episodes could definitely be considered scary/gory. So if you can get past that, you start to get some answers and the violence goes way down. People get shot, stabbed, and die. After the first couple episodes, not much blood shown, except for scraps and cuts. Two women go into labor, nothing shown. There is some language, but again varies from episode to episode. Sawyer is the biggest culprit, but mostly mild language. Two cases of infidelity. In one case the truth does come out, and the couple becomes better afterwards. The other case ends in divorce. In season 1 &2 we see ladies in bikinis/tank tops a couple times. There are several couples throughout the show. So there are several kisses. There were a couple scenes we skipped through, mostly dealing with Sawyer.

These are a couple shows that I have been watching during quarantine. What have you been watching? Have you seen any of these shows? If so, what are some of your favorite characters?

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Review for Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Christian fiction, Middle-grade, fantasy

Series – 2nd book in the Chronicles of Narnia

Rating – PG for mild peril

Synopsis –

This book picks up 1 year after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Pevensie children are preparing to leave for their various schools. When suddenly, they are pulled back into Narnia. They find it a much wilder place since they last left. They find out that the rightful king (Prince Caspian) is on the run from his uncle Miraz who is trying to kill him. Caspian is assembling an army of old Narnians at the stone table. Will the Pevensie children be able to aide Caspian in taking back his throne?

My thoughts –

It has been a long time since I actually read the Chronicles of Narnia. Last spring I reread the Lord of the Rings, so I figured now that I have some extra time, why not reread Narnia. I started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and was surprised to find that the movie (which I have seen like a billion times) stayed pretty close to the book. So this week I picked up Prince Caspian. I had forgotten a lot of the little pieces in this one.

It was wonderful to get back into the stories that I loved as a child. Not gonna lie, but Prince Caspian felt soo much shorter then what I had remembered. There were several characters that I was drawn to: Edmund, Doctor Cornelius, and Reepicheep. I have always loved Reepicheep. So no surprise there. πŸ˜‰ I was surprised to see how much Edmund had grown since the last book. Susan got a little on my nerves, and I could see the start of her disbelief in Narnia.

The plot moves along at a good clip, but I didn’t realize how long it took the Pevensies to get to Caspian. They didn’t meet him until like 3/4s of the way through the book. There is not a lot of action per say, but Lewis incorporates word building masterfully as to build his world, but also to keep things moving. Although, this is not my favorite book in the series, it has many good themes. I would probably say that The Silver Chair is my favorite, especially with all the character development that occurs.

One theme I picked up on was faith. Although the word is never used, you could tell Lewis was weaving the concept throughout the whole book. A couple examples is the old Narnian’s belief/nonbelief in the high kings/queens. Or Lucy’s ability to see Aslan while the older children cannot. Later on Aslan performs a few miracles similar to a few miracles that Jesus performed. Anyhow for some reason I always thought The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as having the most Biblical themes, but Lewis incorporated it in all of his books.

Language – One use of mild language.

Innuendo – None

Violence –

Lewis keeps these books pretty clean. There are a couple sword fights. A few characters get cuts or draw blood. There is a scene where a werewolf and a hag attack a few characters. Several characters die, not in detail. There is a battle where characters fight one another.

Conclusion –

Its fun to go back and reread book. I always pick up things that I had missed when I read it as a kid. The Chronicles of Narnia is a wonderful series that I cannot recommend enough. It is definitely a classic that deserves to be read, especially if you are a Christian. Glad I took the time to reread Prince Caspian!!

Have you read this series? If so, what is your favorite book in the series? Is it Prince Caspian?

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Review for Wildwood

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, Fantasy

Series – 1st in the Wildwood Chronicles

Rating – PG for mild peril

Synopsis –

Prue loves her baby brother, Mac, and she will do anything to keep him safe. One day while visiting a park, crows swoop in and steal Mac right out of Prue’s hands. She decides to follow the crows into the Impassable Wilderness to look for him. Prue’s classmate, Curtis, follows her into the woods. As they traverse the forest, they meet many creatures along the way who inform them of the perilous political situation that the South woods are in. As the evil Dowager Governess amasses an army, will Prue be able to save her brother before it is too late?

My Thoughts

This book had been on my TBR list for quit some time, and I am just now getting around to it. I came into it knowing nothing about it except that it was reminiscent of Narnia.

It started out with so much potential with a likeable heroine trying to save her brother from an evil queen. I thought Prue was a relatable character. She did what was right in the face of danger. I also liked Curtis, the quiet friend who sort of tags along for the ride. I would say Curtis had better developmental arc as he had some hard lessons to learn.

It felt like the author was trying to tell 2 stories in 1 book. The first half the book explains the political issues that the Wildwood is experiencing. We see the what goes on in the South wood while Curtis’s adventure shows us what the queen is truly like. Then the story shifts gears and we meet two more different groups of people: the Mystics and the Bandits. The book is long for a middle-grade novel. It clocks in at 544 pages. I feel like the author could have cut the book in half and told the first half just by itself, maybe go a bit more into what the South Wood is like.

I cruised through the first chunk of the book, but then about 30% in I hit a snag and slowed down. Personally, I had to force myself to sit down and finish it. Normally I love these two genres so I don’t know if I’d enjoy having an actual copy to read or maybe this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

One quibble I do have to mention is about the Mystics. They are a very New-age type of group who mediate and speak to the trees. A few of their poses sound similar to yoga. A character offers some advice to another character explaining that we have no control over what happens to us. Something about this just sounded off to me. Several characters mention there being no god. I come from a Christian worldview so I struggled with some of the themes that the author put in there.

Language – Fairly clean, I think only 2 or 3 uses of mild language.

Innuendo – Again, not much there. A character gives another character a kiss on the cheek before a battle.

Violence – The Bandits and the Dowager Governess are at war. So there are several skirmishes mentioned. A couple mentions of dead bodies. A character makes a choice and is taken prisoner. He is put into a suspended cage. A couple times where character shoot at other people/animals. A bird is shot through the chest and dies. During one battle a character is shoot in the shoulder and it mentions his wound bleeding. Another character is shot in the chest and falls down (doesn’t die). Most of this was not very detailed.

Conclusion –

An interesting read that at times did remind me of Narnia. I did like the characters as they all had flaws and issues they were working through. The author did a decent job creating a believable fantasy world, but there were a few issues that I had with it. Glad that I finished it! Now I can move on to something different.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? How’s your April going?

Anna contemporary

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Review for Flight of the Angels

Flight of the Angels by Allen and Aaron Reini

Genre – Science fiction, Dystopian, Christian fiction

Series – 1st in Flight of Angels series

Rating – PG-13 for violence and mild language

Synopsis –

Set in the future, where the United Coalition Navy has outlawed Christianity and those who profess it are sent to re-education centers. Captain Dex D’falco and his Christian group called the Angels are hiding out on a forsaken planet. After several run-ins with Marauders (a droid driven spaceship) while trying to gather much needed supplies, D’falco realizes there is a mole in his midst. Over at JenKore, a massive mining and military company, Darik Mason is given the impossible task of figuring out where the missing M-2 machines went. As the Angels fight for survival, someone high up the Jenkore food chain wants all the Christian dead and is willing to do whatever it takes.

My Thoughts –

This was quite the roller coaster ride!! I gotta say I really loved this book. Its been a while since I truly enjoyed a book this much. I have a soft spot for science fiction, always have. πŸ˜‰ The author does a great job meshes Christian fiction and Sci-fi together. Compared to some other science fiction books that I have read, this one incorporates a fair amount of technology. JenKore is a technological company that creates robotic droids (in my mind I picture those droids in Star Wars Empire Strikes Back).

Not gonna lie, but there are a lot of characters to keep track of throughout the book. Once I got to know them, it was easier. It took me a while to connect to Dex, not sure what it was, but I didn’t care for him until later on. Maybe it had to do with how the authors waited until like 40% through to give us his backstory. Anyway, he did grow on me later on. But I really loved Darik and Nikky’s story line. FYI Nikky is the geeky tech guy who helps Darik track down some information on the M-2s. I loved how the author gave him a pet turtle. It just felt like something that would be realistic.

There were so many components to the plot. Things that I thought didn’t really matter, ended up playing key roles. The authors did a great job keeping things moving and letting it get bogged down. I also appreciated having an ending that wasn’t rushed and left me wanting more. Heads up they do leave it on a cliffhanger. πŸ˜‰

It startled me how real this book felt. I can totally see this happening in the future. Already we are staring to see measures prohibiting Christianity around the world.

Violence –

Because this is set mostly in space, picture Star Trek type battles. Lots of shooting down ships. Now the Angels have a protocol where they do not shoot manned spacecraft. Overall not many deaths occur as mostly robots.

Now there are a few cases where Christians are put to death due to their faith. These are a bit more descriptive as they are first stabbed then their throats are slit. A hero try to prevent this, but is too late. Another instance a hero watches it on a camera and the blood spatters covering the lens.

Language – Usually Christian fiction steers away from inserting language, but this wasn’t the case. Stuck within the confines of what you would hear on a PG show like Psych or Monk. It was fairly spread out, but both believers and non-believers did it.

Innuendo – Not much. A couple hints that two characters liked each other, but not doing anything about it. A couple guys flirt with a waitress. Late on a character takes another character on a trip and they talk about flying away to the beach.

Other – One occasion where a couple characters get drunk.

Conclusion –

I really enjoyed this one!! There were a few mysteries that are not resolved, and I am looking forward to reading the second installment in this series. A well put together novel with some intriguing concepts thrown in the mix. Definitely geared towards adults. I cannot recommend this one enough! Go and get yourself a copy!!

I would love to hear your thoughts! Do you enjoy science fiction? What are some of your favorite genres??

Anna

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Review for King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green

Genre – Fantasy, Historical fiction,

Series – This is a collection of stories taken from older tales.

Rating – PG-13 for violence and suggestive themes

Synopsis –

This novel tells the of King Arthur’s rises to power in Britain. Merlin, a good wizard, hides Arthur when he is still a child and places him with foster parents. Once Arthur pulls a magical sword from a stone, he lineage is revealed, and he is crowned king. Arthur gathers knights of renown to cleanse the land from evil. His knights embark on various quests to gain glory and honor.

My Thoughts –

My sister and I had recently started watching the BBCs Merlin. After finishing season one, which I really enjoyed, I thought I would go back and reread the book. The author took stories from a variety of poetic version and condensed them for children.

I had read this years ago back when I was in middle school, and I had a vague recollection of a few stories. I enjoyed going back and rereading this classic. I got a lot more out of it the second time. There were several knights that I had completely forgotten about like Percival and Galahad. Also I had forgotten the whole quest for the holy grail.

Overall, I would say that I enjoyed these stories. A few characters got on my nerves *cough* Launcelot I am looking at you. Merlin was only in like the first 3 stories which was surprising as I had thought he was more of main character. After Arthur becomes king, Arthur takes a step back from the story and his knights take over.

I do feel like the story felt a little stifled. It repeated a lot! The knights would joust, break their lance, then proceed to fight until their opponent bled to death. I am not sure how much the author changed from the original manuscripts. So who knows, maybe the original story was different. Also almost every quest involved saving a women from an evil knight. I just wish there could have been a little variety there.

As a side note if you do want to hear another take on King Arthur I would recommend listening to the Myths and Legend podcast. It is aimed at adults though. Here is a link to some of his King Arthur ones. https://www.mythpodcast.com/4/episode-1a-yvainglory/

Violence –

The violence doesn’t go into descriptive detail, but it is there. Many mentions of knights getting their heads chopped off. One night comes back to life afterwards. Since they joust in just about every chapter, the author mentions them fighting until the ground is soaked with their blood. Many characters suffer from a mortal wound. A few characters have odd illnesses that plague them. There is a huge battle where there are literally only 4 survivors. One of the holy relics that goes with the Holy Grail is a bleeding spear that pierced Christ’s side.

Language – None

Innuendo –

Most of the suggestive themes are referenced in veiled terms. The whole thing of Uther falling in love with Igrayne, another man’s wife, only gets about a sentence. There are several kisses between knights and their lady love. Not descriptive at all. Now I do want to mention the whole Launcelot and Guinevere thing. In the earlier parts of the book, just says that Launcelot fell in love with Guinevere at first sight and fought for her, but later on we find out she falls for him as well. They eventually kiss and supposedly going to do other stuff, but they are found out.

I will say Launcelot tries to do the right thing by forgetting about Guinevere, but sadly, this doesn’t last long. It is shown to be wrong and a priest confronts him about it. It is part of the reason why he is not allowed to see the Holy Grail.

Other –

Just a quick mention that there is some magic throughout. Mostly enchantments that are put upon a person unwillingly. Also Morgana Le Fay has the ability to transform herself into other objects.

Conclusion –

This book is great starting point for someone interested in the legend of King Arthur. It is filled with daring quests and fighting for what is right. It is a classic in its own right. I enjoyed going back and rereading this classic, although it is a bit repetitive at times. These stories have been around several hundred years. So, if you haven’t read it, give it a go.

Have you read any books about King Arthur? Do you have a favorite story? or Movie? Love to hear your thoughts!!

Anna

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Review for At Home in Mitford

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At Home in Mitford by Jan Karen

Genre – Christian fiction, Mystery

Series – 1st in Mitford series

Rating – PG – for thematic elements

Synopsis –

Father Tim is an aging bachelor who is just worn out from life. He has ministered to the Mitford parish for 25 years. Yet, now that he is in his 60s, his life seems to be throwing him several curve-balls. First, a large dog follows him around town. Then an 11 year old boy needs a home while his grandpa recovers from pneumonia. Later on food is disappearing from the church refrigerator. Lastly, a new neighbor has moved in and the Father begins to like her. Will Father Tim figure out a way to juggle these things?

Summary –

Since I haven’t been able to go to the library for a while, I have been catching up on reading books that have been sitting on my bookshelf for way too long. This was a gem!! I have never read anything by this author before so it was a complete surprise. I had recently finish Christy, which was OK in its own right, but this blew it out of the water.

To start the characters felt like people who you would meet walking down the street. They all had flaws and issues they were working through. Father Tim was a gentle shepherd. It was interesting to see him take his flock so seriously. Each week he would visit just about his everyone in his church. Dooley was quite a handful, but he provided some needed humor. Father Tim takes him under his wing and provides a home. Also the character Emma is a hoot.

There were a few twists I didn’t see coming which I appreciated. The mystery is just a small portion of the book, but it pays off hugely in the end. Also, I laughed out loud several times. The novel uplifted me, plain and simple. It was refreshing to have a clean, wholesome story.

There are some theological discussions sprinkled throughout the story. Several characters come to know the Lord which is always neat to see. The Father is an Episcopalian, which is a denomination that I didn’t know much about. So I learned a few things along the way like gospel side vs. epistle side.

Language – Only one foul word used by someone who wasn’t a believer

Violence – A character is shot off the page. Also there are characters who were ill. Mention of a heart transplant.

Innuendo – As Father Tim falls for Cynthia, they talk about going steady. A few mentions of wanting to hold her. One kiss on the cheek.

Conclusion –

If you are looking for a wholesome story that is not dark, I would recommend this book. I loved the small town community as it felt like I had stepped back in time. Its the type of book that will make you laugh and then cry as the story unfolds.

Have you read any books in this series? How is your March going? Cannot wait to hear from you!

Anna

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Review for East

East by Edith Pattou

Genre – Fantasy, YA, Fairy-tale Retelling

Rating – PG – for peril

Synopsis –

This is the story of Rose, a wild and free child whose name originates from a superstitious lie her mother believes. One night a polar bear shows up offering to heal Rose’s sick sister if Rose comes with him. Rose agrees and gets swept up in figuring out who the polar bear really is and the mystery surrounding the hidden castle. She embarks on an epic journey to save those who she loves.

My Thoughts –

I would say the first half the story has many elements from Beauty and the Beast. An enchantment holding a person prisoner, a girl who is trapped inside an underground castle, and mysterious servants. Yet, the last half the book turned into a quest involving traveling through various lands to save the lost prince.

The author tells the tale through different voices. We hear from Rose, her Father, her brother Neddy, Troll Queen, and the White Bear. It actually helped convey bits and pieces from the past. Most of the chapters are really short which made want to read more in one sitting. Anyway, back to the voices they all help us understand Rose and why the White Bear do what they do. I loved the sections from Neddy’s perspective. It took me a while to appreciate Rose.

Now lets discuss the plot. The first few chapters were slower, as we were introduced to everybody. Things start to pick up as Rose enters the castle. I found that section as one of the strongest. *Spoiler Alert * After the prince is taken to the troll’s hidden kingdom, the plot takes a drastic turn. I enjoyed Rose’s travels and the people she met along the way.

The book is divided into four sections titled North, South, East, and West. There is a person who plays a role in each of the sections.

East – Rose’s father

South – White Bear

West – Estelle and Sofi

North – Malmo

OK, I want to mention that the trolls seem to have some magic or power that enables them enchant the prince. Its not really mentioned how, but the author does mention that the Troll Queen has powers. Also a character is mentioned to be a shaman although she does nothing magical. Mostly teaching Rose practical survival skills. Lastly, Neddy tells Rose Norse legends of Thor and Odin.

Language – Pretty clean here, only one use of d- word

Violence – Again, not much violence. There is a polar bear attack on a main character. An evil character makes another character vanish into thin air. A character becomes trapped under ice and snow. I’ll also mention here that the trolls give all the humans a drug/drink that stupefies them and dulls their memory.

Innuendo – Only one thing here. During Rose’s stay at the underground castle, she sleeps in a huge bed. Midway through the night, someone comes in and sleeps on the opposite side of the bed. (nothing sexual about it) Rose has no idea who it is. She is not allowed to touch and see who it is. Eventually she figures it out. I didn’t really care for it and I think the author could have done something different, but it is in there.

It is super subtle, but Rose does fall for the prince.

Conclusion –

This book is based upon the fairy tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” Once it got going I enjoyed the story and had a hard time putting it down. Rose’s character grew on me in the later half of the book. Didn’t really care for the prince, but most of the time he was either a polar Bear or drugged so much he couldn’t remember his name. Anyway it was different and had some good parts to it.

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Review of The Tale of Hawthorn House

The Tale of Hawthorn House by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction, Adult

Series – 4th in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – for mild language and drama

Synopsis –

During a summer festival, baby Flora suddenly appears on Miss Potter’s doorstep. The villagers begin a search for the Flora’s parents, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Jemima Puddle-duck tries her hand at motherhood. Will Miss Potter be able to get down to the bottom of the mystery?

My thoughts –

Compared to the first three books, this one felt a little repetitive. There was a lot of recapping what had happened in previous books. From the start of the book, you have a pretty good idea where its headed. Not really any surprises.

Now, its not all bad. There is still some magic to the quaint village of Sawrey. I enjoyed the bit about the town’s meddling in personal affairs and chuckled at how the inhabitants had decided on who Miss Potter would marry.

Now I did struggle with the whole Thorn Folk. In The Tale of Holly How, the fairies felt real and not pushed on you. While here, I feel forced to believe that these Thorn Folk exist. Maybe it was the way the author used them, but I did not care for it.

To me the whole animal side-plot works for me. I enjoy hearing the animals talk among themselves about the big folk. I enjoy hearing about their adventures. Although Jemima could be annoying at times. I struggled to believe that she would run off with a fox. It connects the stories Beatrix Potter wrote to this series.

Violence – None

Innuendo – At the beginning, it is insinuated that a character had a baby out of wedlock, but that turns out not to be the case.

Language – A few mild curse words, maybe 4 at the most.

Conclusion –

I appreciate having a series of books that are clean and aren’t filled with a bunch of superfluous content. Although, this addition to the series wasn’t up to par as the previous books were, it still had that small town charm. I’m hoping the rest of the series will improve.

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Review for Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton

Genre – Historical fiction

Rating – G

Synopsis –

Mr. Chips loves teaching at the Brooksfield school for boys. He taught for over 40 years and saw the up and downs of the first World War as well as endured several different headmasters. Now in his old age, he recalls key moments in his life.

My thoughts –

This was such a small book, yet filled with love and memories of a time past. I truly wished there were more stories from Mr. Chips teaching days. The end almost brought tears to my eyes.

I loved how the author introduced Kathie to us. She played a big role in changing Chips discipline practices with the boys. They had such a brief courtship before they were married.

The plot jumps around between older Chips and moments in his past. At first, it took some getting used to, but get to know Chips better. I think my favorite part was near the end where it shows what Mr. Chips did during the war years.

Language – None

Violence – Mentions how several of the young men die during the war and how Chips would read aloud names of those who had past.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

I fell in love with this book after the first two chapters. It has that feel of a well-written story set in the British countryside. Grab a cup of tea, your favorite blanket, and sit down with this book. It won’t take more then an afternoon to read πŸ˜‰ Also, it would make a nice read-aloud.

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Review for Sky without Stars

Sky without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Genre – Science fiction, Teen, Les Miserables retelling

Series – System Divine Book 1

Synopsis –

To start this is a retelling of Les Miserables that is set in the future. There are three young adults whose lives are about to intersect though they don’t know it yet. Chantine, Marcellus, and Alouette all live in different parts on Vallonay. As a revolution begins, the truth comes out and no one is who they thought they were.

My Thoughts –

In my opinion writing a story based of a classic sounds hard. First, you have to keep the basic main points from the original, but also keeping your story fresh and vibrant.

Although this book is set in the future, not much has changed. Yes, our phones are now on our arms and the police have turned into droids, but people are still they same. Segregating themselves onto a rainy planet and warring over resources. I liked this updated feel.

You can tell who the main characters are based off, but here we only have three main characters with Epinine being the one with most page time. I honestly did not care for Chatine as her attitude struck me as arrogant. Took a large chunk for her to even feel sorry for someone other then her self. Marcellus’s character was relatable. Confusion over lies he had been told. Despite his flaws, he truly wanted to do what was right and I liked that. Alouette was OK. I really wanted more about her dad.

The plot felt a little slow at times, but I think that it was preparing for the next book. We spent a lot of time getting to know the characters and their environment. Despite its slowness, I had a hard time putting it down.

Language – Pretty mild, only 5 d words

Innuendo –

A mention of flashing a tette for money. Later on two characters kiss/embrace.

Violence –

Multiple mentions of blood bordels which suck blood out of young girls in exchange for money. We don’t see it actually done, only talk of its existence. Characters view this as awful. Also, a innocent character is put to beheaded. (Characters look away before it occurs). Lots of shooting lasers.

Conclusion –

Les Miserables is such a great story about redemption and forgiveness; and I was honestly surprised someone was retelling it. I think the author did a great job drawing the reader into the story while also giving us descriptions of scenery. Despite the flaws, this series definitely has potential. The book is geared toward young adults.

Have you read Les Miserables? or seen the musical? What are your thoughts?

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Review for Offworld

Offworld by Robin Parrish

Series – Book 1 in Dangerous Times

Genre – Christian fiction, science fiction, Dystopian

Rating – PG-13 for perilous situations and violence

Synopsis –

Four astronauts return from a 2 year mission on mars to find no one on earth. Odd things start happening on their voyage through the atmosphere. To make matters worse, Commander Burke starts having visions of a shifting void. Will they figure out where everyone went before its too late?

My Thoughts –

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres as there is an unlimited supply of possibilities and who doesn’t love space travel? Plus the author makes this mission feel fresh and different. It like if you throw Interstellar and War Games into a blender with a dash of end of the world situations.

On the whole I would say this is a plot driven novel. It’s action packed, but leaves a little bit wanting in the character background department. Giving an astronaut Fibromyalgia was interesting and I wish we could have had more detail describing how it affected her. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be left on earth without your family. It would be devastating. The author does a great job exploring how it affects the astronauts differently.

Although the book was classified as Christian fiction, there were only a few mentions of God. A couple brief discussions on whether God exists and a few prayers. There is mention of a divine rift in time and a piece from the heavenly realm has somehow fallen on earth and wreaked havoc. That felt a little bit implausible as God is omniscient, but its science fiction.

Language – A couple references to living in hell.

Innuendo – Some mild talk about how the astronauts would have to repopulate the earth. Later on a character professes his love via a phone call.

Violence – Several of the astronauts get injured during their landing. A character dislocates his arm and has to wear it in a sling. Another character gets buried under a building during its collapse. Several characters die due to getting shot. A few shootouts between characters (not much detail). During an explosion, a character dies self-sacrificially to save the world.

Conclusion –

This book was hard to put down as questions keep building until the end. A perfect science fiction thriller for an afternoon read. I wish there was a sequel as there are unanswered questions. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It had some interesting points on the lengths we would go to get answers.

Do you have any favorite science fiction novels? What are your thoughts on Offworld?

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Review for Will’s Red Coat

Will’s Red Coat by Tom Ryan

Genre – Nonfiction, memoir

Rating – PG-13 for brief strong language

Synopsis –

The author tells the story of an elderly dog named William who had a rough live before being put up for adoption. After hearing about William, Tom Ryan decides to adopt him. Little does he know of the hardships and baggage that Will brings with him. William goes on a journey that transforms him.

My Thoughts –

I had previously listened to the audio book Following Atticus last summer, and it came as a complete surprise when I received Will’s Red Coat for Christmas.

I enjoy the author writing style! It is laid back and personal. We get a glimpse into the wilderness of the New Hampshire mountains. Anytime I read a book like this, it inspires me to go hiking and spend time in nature.

I love Will’s redemptive story. With a little patience and understanding, we can plant seeds that may later lead to a change in person’s life (or an animal in this case). Reminds me how patient Jesus is with us and how he is always ready for when we turn to him.

The chapter about Will’s last days had me in tears. Will’s transformation affected so many lives. I was astounded at how the Facebook group reached out and filled the home with flowers.

Now, the author has an interesting theology and I cannot say that I agree with everything he says especially were salvation is concerned. I also believe the Holy Spirit is the one that does the transformation in our lives. I just wanted to mention that it is there.

Language – There wasn’t a ton, but the F-bomb was used three times. As well as some other uses of colorful language.

Violence – None

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Looking for a book that combines picturesque descriptions of landscapes with a dog’s friendship, then this is the book for you! This is a thought provoking novel about dogs impact on our lives. Aimed at adults, but nothing that a mature teen couldn’t handle.

Do you love dogs? Have any favorite dog books? Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Anna

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Review for War and Peace

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Genre – Historical fiction, Russian war

Rating – PG-13 for some mild references to marital affairs and violence in war sections

Synopsis – Note- I am going to take a quote from the introduction of the book to summarize this.

“The book is set in the period of the Napoleonic wars (1805 -1812) and tells of the interweaving of historical events with the private lives of two very different families of the Russian nobility – the severe Bolkonskys and the easygoing Rostovs and of a singular man, reminiscent of the author himself -Count Pierre Bezukhov.”

Pevear, Richard. (2007) Introduction. War and Peace. P. vii.

My Thoughts –

This is such a tough book to review as there was so much that happened in the 1215 pages. This was one of the largest books I have ever read and it takes a while to actually get going. It is a slow, thoughtful novel that reflects the lives of the Russian people during a chaotic time in their history.

On one of the first pages we are given a long list of characters that I thought for sure I would never remember. I think roughly half-way through I stopped looking at the character list as by then you kinda know who everyone was.

Some characters have a big developmental arc as there was plenty of time to have them grow especially Natasha and Pierre. I actually really enjoyed Natasha’s character despite her being a little self-centered. She just felt very realistic, and I loved her with Andrei.

Now the whole set up can be very bothersome at times. Basically you get a volume or section about the character’s social life then it will jump to a section about the war. Some of the war bits got to be pretty dull as Tolstoy would insert his opinion about who the real culprit was for the wars or now Napoleon was or wasn’t great etc.

There was a character’s death that was very tearful and poignant. I wished Tolstoy had not killed that particular character. I so wanted him to make amends with another character. We do get to see a change in him though.

Lastly, I do want to mention that there are some interesting and thought provoking discussions on religion that surprised me. One character does convert to Mormonism, but does turn around from that. A couple characters believe in God (hard to tell whether they are Christian or Catholic). Forgiveness was a minor theme as well.

Innuendo –

Not much, a couple rumors about a wife being unfaithful (We don’t really find out if this was true) One character wore revealing dresses. At one point a character hatches a plan to elope with someone despite the fact that he was already married. (Thankfully, the plan is stopped before it happens).

Language –

There were a couple missuses of the Lord’s name and couple mild uses of language. Also note one word is used a couple times, but refereed to a female dog. Just how the word was used back then.

Violence –

There are sections were we get a look at what battles were like. Several characters were shot, bled, and cut. We are also told that there were many dead bodies laying on the battlefield. At one point a character gets hurt due to a cannonball exploding. Horses are killed for food. Also there was a gun duel where a character was grazed by a bullet. We are also told about an amputation.

Conclusion –

All that, to say that this is a classic, and it should be read at some point in your life. I had wanted to tackle this novel for awhile now. After reading a bunch of fluff, I wanted something that I could sink my teeth into and really dig in. This definitely fit the bill. I’m glad I read it, but also totally done with it. There are some great sections that would make for some good discussions about religion, where power comes from, and who controls history. Was kinda cool to see what Russian life was like during that time. Probably more aimed at adults just due to subject matter and size.

So, have you tackled any classics recently? What is your favorite classic? Thoughts on War and Peace?

Anna

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Review for Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Genre – Historical fiction, YA

Rating – PG-13 for maritime disaster and violence

Synopsis –

For this book, I’m going to quote the book’s description

“Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four Secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war. As Thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.”

My thoughts –

This book … I just cannot get it out of my head!!! I finished it the other day and read the ending twice! This is a deep look at a tragedy that occured at the end of WWII.

Ok, let’s start with the characters. They are well drawn out and the author made them very relatable. I had to pause at a point in the book where a character sacrificed themselves. Ugh! So sad, but lifelike. There are four main characters that you get to know. Its written from the view of four young adults. I grew to love three of the main. The fourth character you are not supposed to like. I don’t know how the author did it. The chapters are so short, yet I felt like I was going through everything that the characters went through.

The plot was quick paced and yet, well developed. This was a book I could not put down!! I loved that the author started us midway through the refugees escape to the sea. The secrets came out slowly; we learned about their past bit by bit. Which honestly worked for me. I wished we could have had more time on the ship, actually I wish we could have had more time after the wreck. The book felt too short. I wanted more!!

Some characters stuck out to me more then others. Florian, Joana, and Ingrid. These were my top three, but the wondering boy and the shoe poet were great as well! The way it was written reminded me of The Book Thief which I loved!

This story is a sad, heartbreaking tale of survival and escape.

Language – There were a few choice words used, but mostly stuff you would hear in a PG TV show.

Innuendo – Two or three kisses. Also at the start of the book, Emilia is pregnant. Now, we do find out how it happens. The author gives us enough detail that we can read between the lines. It is sad and awful, but probably happened a lot during this time in history. Note- It is very brief and not at all the character’s fault.

Violence – One characters shoots a Russian soldier to safe another character. Women shoots a German. We hear about dead bodies that they on the road due to frostbite. A character has shrapnel in his side. Many people die during the boat sinking. Characters try to save others who are swimming the ocean, but some die due to hypothermia. A person tries to get off the sinking ship by jumping into ocean and land on part of the ship. Most of it not graphic, but is mentioned.

I should mention that some characters lie about their identity. One character steals an identity paper off of a dead person. Another character sole an artifact from the Germans.

Conclusion –

Something about this book just drew me in. The characters were flawed and lifelike that I felt like I was there with them. This story is a sad, heartbreaking tale of survival and escape. I wonder why it is labeled YA? I feel like adults would get a lot out of this. If you don’t mind sad historical fiction, I would highly recommend this!

What are your thoughts? Have you read any WWII fiction? If so, what are some of your favorites? Did you like/dislike this book?

Anna

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Review for The Girl who Said Goodbye

The Girl who Said Goodbye by Heather Allen

Genre – A Memoir

Rating – PG-13 for descriptions of atrocities committed and violence

Synopsis –

This book tells the story of a young women named Siv Eng who survived the Khmer Rouge takeover in Cambodia. It goes back and forth between when she was little and during the take over. The author walks through the what Siv Eng went through from the years 1963-1980.

My Thoughts –

Before reading this book, I had never heard of the Khmer Rouge takeover. They were basically a communist group that was able to completely over throw the previous government and separate families to dehumanize them by taking away everything from religion to language. I was surprised at how effective they were in moving a whole country’s people to camps.

Siv Eng goes through so much in the 7 years of the take over. Its heartbreaking to read of her separation from her family. The people like Siv Eng who lived in the cities were forced to work in jungle labor camps collecting rice or digging trenches. Just imagine what it would be like to survive on just getting a bowl of soup. They had to supplement it with whatever they could steal.

Throughout the book you can see evidence of how God protected her even in her darkest days of illness. In one of the chapters Siv Eng cried out to the God. We find out that later in life she comes to accept Jesus as her Savior. We see how God provided kinder chiefs who would help Siv Eng find missing jewelry, move her to work in the gardens, and find certain missing family members.

Language – None

Innuendo – At one point in the book, the author mentioned that it was common for soldiers to rape women, but nothing happened to any of the characters. Other then the one mention, there was nothing inappropriate.

Violence –

Now due to this being a memoir Siv Eng mentions things she saw like rotting corpse, soldiers shooting the prisoners, or beating that happened. Also she mentioned how leeches who latch onto their feet. In one chapter it discuss how they had to detach a leech. A few sections mentioned mass murders or digging a mass grave. Several mentions of soldiers killing people.

Other –

There are many instances where individuals had to lie to the soldiers or to the Khmer Rouge in order to survive. Also, there is a mention of how the prisoners used helmets to relieve themselves.

Conclusion –

I really enjoyed this memoir! It opened my eyes to something that had happened in history. To me it is fascinating reading survival stories. The human body can endure so much pain and heartache with God’s help. This would be a good book for teens on up due to some of the content mentioned. I highly recommend reading it!!

Anna

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Review for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages

The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, science fiction

Rating – PG for mild peril

Series – 5th book in The Mysterious Benedict Society

Synopsis –

It has been several years since we last met with the society. They have now grown up and matured. Yet, there is a new crisis arising. The Ten Men have escaped and are looking for revenge, and they have teamed up with another telepathic individual. Will the society be able to come together once more?

My Thoughts –

I was so excited when I first heard this was coming out!! I read this series back when I was in middle-school. So this was a sweet treat to be able to visit with some old friends. The older kids are roughly 16 years old, maybe 17. While, Constance is now 8.

This book had a different feel to it then the previous four. (I’m included The Extortionary Education of Nicholas Benedict in the count.) The writing style has changed. The riddles are still there, but the focus has shifted more to how they have all changed.

A key component to this book is growing up and how that affects friendships. I think this one will resonate with kids and adults alike. There are some great moments in there between Reynie and Mr. Benedict which really got to me. I loved that we get an idea of where the kids will go in the future.

I will mention a couple downsides that I feel detract from this book. First, less action and less mystery. I do with there would have been a bit more mystery for the kids to solve. It spent much more time focusing on interpersonal communication.

Secondly, the adults where for the most part are out of the picture. I remember when I first read this series, how positive the adults were portrayed. So, many books these days have awful parenting. This was always a series I could count on showing positive parent-child relationships. Not to say that the parents were portrayed negatively, but their influence was minimal at best. I guess this is due to the kids needed to grow up and take on more responsibility.

Language – None

Innuendo – A character who can read thoughts heard that a some characters had crushes on each other. There is no mention of who crushes were on.

Violence – This series for the most part tries to handle things without relying on violence. Several characters talk about how they do not want to hurt anyone. A bad character throws pencils at other characters, and talks about hurting them. Also a character shoots tranquilizer darts, but overall no one is hurt.

Summery –

I loved being able to return to this fantastic series. The whit and charm were still there, but the characters themselves have changed. While, there is less action, we get a deeper look at friendship and the lengths one would take to keep it going. This would be a great read-aloud!

What are your thoughts? Have you read this series? Which book is your favorite?

Anna

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Review for Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes (Peter Nimble #1)

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Genre – Middle-grade, fantasy, mystery

Rating – PG for fantasy violence

Age range – Middle school on up (I think it would make a good read aloud)

Synopsis –

Peter Nimble is trying to make a living for himself by stealing for Mr. Seamus despite his blindness. Until one day he meets a mysterious stranger who helps Peter by giving him a special gift. Peter then sets out across the ocean to answer a call for help, and might discover someone about himself along the way.

My thoughts –

This was a quirky book which I really enjoyed reading. The author wrote it in the third person so at times the narrator will pop out and explain something. A sort of cheeky comical/absurd feel to it. It meshed several genres together by combining fantasy, with an orphan tale, and a dash of mystery. The beginning was reminiscent of Oliver Twist.

The plot was tight and moved quickly. Several of the twists were a little predictable. I saw the end coming a mile away. The characters while, absurd at times, were relatable. Throughout the novel, Peter really grows as a character from petty thief to revolutionary. I loved that Sir Tode became one of Peter’s best friends and stood up for him. Also, the ravens were a nice touch. Now, the bad guys felt very one dimensional. They were totally evil.

I loved how the author incorporated the Fantastic Eyes throughout the book. They helped Peter when used the right way. Thankfully, they weren’t overused. Some books rescue the hero every time he gets in trouble. Not in this book, when Peter gets in trouble, he learns from his mistakes.

Violence – It was more violent then I expected for a middle grade book. There were two main battles where many characters died. In a couple places there is mention of blood covering a street. A gang of boys throw daggers around a zebra. The ravens attack and kill a few banished thieves. Several ravens get cut or die.

Language – None

Innuendo – None

Other- I should mention that there is a fair amount of thieving that goes on. The book does mention that thievery is not a good thing. Peter does not enjoy doing it, but he does it cause he has too.

Conclusion –

This book had me intrigued from the start! I love the cover as it catches your eye. The narrator sometimes pops up and made me laugh with the third person dialogue. I cannot wait to read the squeal.

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Quick Reviews – 5 Books I read

I am going to try something different from how I normally write reviews. I will write about my top 5 books I have read in the past month. I have been reading a lot recently and I wanted to mention some of these amazing books. Now as a side note I do want to give The Silmarillion its own post as there is a lot to unpack.

The Story People by Heather Kaufman

Synopsis – Ben owns a bookstore that had belonged to his uncle. He struggles with finding a sense of home. When a female author comes to town, the town ladies try to match make these two together.

Thoughts – Although a wee bit predictable, it was a sweet read. I loved how the author put snippets telling the back story of the two kids at the beginning of each chapter. There were several times that this book made me laugh. I loved the older ladies and their escapades trying to keep Ben in town. If you are looking for a nice, light read, this is for you!

Rating – PG for some mild innuendo

Corus the Champion Lengends of Karac Tor by D. Briggs

Synopsis- This continues the story of the Barlow brothers and their adventures into Karac Tor. The four brothers have their work cut out for them as an enemy from the north approaches seeking to destroy all. Meanwhile Sorge attempts to find his lost friend.

Thoughts – I enjoyed this one even more then the first because now that the setting is built, we can sit back and enjoy the ride. One particular character goes on quite the journey. This book had more themes from Arthurian legend which I thought was neat! We actually get to see both Arthur and Merlin. I felt that this plot had more depth than the previous book. The time-travel thing was great and enhanced the plot.

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and a torture scene

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

Synopsis – This is the history of Middle-Earth from its creation to the fall of Saruon. It tells the tale of the Silmarils which are three jewels that were created by the Valar. Melkor seeks revenge on the Valar and tries to take the Silmarils. There are also tales of the courage and corruption of the people of Middle Earth like men and elves.

Thoughts – Going into this book, I had anticipated hating it or at least dragging myself through it. I must say that it is so different from the Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed it more then I had thought I would and will probably need to reread this in the future. There are parts that were dry, but it makes up for it later on. I loved the tale of Beren and Luthien and the fall of Gondolin. Tolkien is a master word builder. The words he created can be very beautiful.

Rating – PG for fantasy violence

I found a podcast that does a great job of going thought Tolkien’s works. If you are interested, they will walk you through The Silmarillion. Highly recommend the Prancing Pony Podcast!

https://theprancingponypodcast.com/category/podcast-episodes/

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

Synopsis – Sasha’s brother has recently passed away and she must brave the world. She gets put into a foster home with a women who cares very much for her, but Sasha has gone through so much, and doesn’t know how to let Phillis in. Though a series of events, Sasha discovers poetry as a coping mechanism.

Thoughts – This was sad and almost depressing read. It has a happy ending, but gosh, this kid gets put through the ringer. For a middle-grade book, this has some tough themes, depression, anxiety, and grief. It actually reminded me a little bit of October Sky. It was an interesting read, but I am still on the fence about it.

Rating – PG for heavy themes and mild language

Haatchi and Little B by Wendy Holden

Synopsis – This book tells the story of Owan, a boy who suffers from Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, and Haatchi, a dog who was run over by a train. It tells their journey to find one another.

Thoughts- The story of how they found each other is very touching. Haatchi goes through quite an ordeal before he finds a forever home. I always find it amazing how dogs can have such an impact people’s lives. I did find the book a little dry at times as the author gave the book more textbook like. I did like the descriptions of what Schwartz-Jampel syndrome was as I had never heard of it. What this pair has gone through is astounding.

Rating – G

Cannot wait to hear from you! What books have you been reading?

Anna

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Review for The Oath

The Oath by Frank Peretti

Genre – Thriller, dragons, Christian fiction

Standalone

Rating – PG-13 for violence

Synopsis – I am just going to quote the book as I won’t do it justice.

“Something sinister is at work in Hyde River, an isolated mining town in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Something evil. Under the Cover of darkness, a predator strikes without warning- taking life in the most chilling and savage fashion. The community of Hyde River watches in terror as residents suddenly vanish. Yet the more locals are pressed for information, the more they close ranks, sworn to secrecy by their forefathers’ hidden sins.” (Peretti, Backcover).

My thoughts –

Hmm where to start?? This book has a lot going for it. The plot was an intriguing one. Basically it asks the question of what would happen if sin manifested itself as a dragon. As with Peretti’s other books, the action scenes are sprinkled into the enfolding drama. Not necessarily a slow start, but it took me a while to really connect with this book. I liked the characters in Peretti’s book Monster better and read it in about two days! Part of this book’s slower pace is that Peretti lays the foundation in the beginning and takes time to set the stage. It pays off hugely in the end.

Ok, lets talk about the characters. Honestly, it took me a while to warm up to the characters. At first I did not like Steve, the main character, until well over half way into the book. For some reason he just rubbed me the wrong way. As time went on, I did grow to understand where Steve was coming from. I did like Levi, the town’s crazy mechanic who spoke words of wisdom to those who needed to hear it. I was not a fan of Tracy, but I did want her to change and help Steve solve the mystery.

If you have ever read a book where the character makes a bad choice that is cringe worthy, take that and multiple it by ten. Much of the book is the characters making poor choices. It showcases how sin can be quit the master of our lives. It was sad seeing some of these characters trade their live away for a few pleasant moments on earth. This is definitely a heavier book that will leave you thoughts to ponder. I sort of stumbled upon this book by accident after finishing Monster. This is a book I will probably need to reread in a couple years.

There was one scene that brought tears to my eyes. A character eventually realized how sin has affected him and the only way to stop the dragon was submitting to Jesus. He does this as chaos erupts around him and then defends his conversion as another character tries to prevent him doing it. It was a touching scene and was well written.

Violence –

Because this book deals with sin, it does not hold back when it comes to violence and gross descriptions. Many people die/vanish throughout this tale. At the beginning of the book, half of a person is found at a camping site. Several characters just simple disappear and are assumed dead. Many characters are described as having black fluid that oozes from a sore near their heart. The dragon eats several characters. A character shoots another character during a fight. One character begins a mob that evicts people from their homes and then sets the houses on fire. The dragon tries to hurt a character by breathing fire. You kind of get the picture.

Language –

One unfinished name calling someone son of a -. No language actually used.

Innuendo –

We learn that several affairs have occurred – most happen before book started so we just hear that it happened. A character watches as a woman swims in a lake and watches her grab clothes. There is a brief mention that two characters spend the night together when they are not married. We find out after the fact.

Conclusion –

I really enjoyed this book, more then I thought I would. It has given me thoughts to ponder like how sin can start of very little, but as we give in to it, it can become quite the dragon in our life. The only way we can conquer sin, is by submitting to Jesus. Now, I would recommend this for adults not sure about teens. There are some difficult themes, and that would make this a great discussion book. As a Christian thriller, this was quite good. So, go grab a copy!

Have you read this book? Do you like it or hate it? Cannot wait to hear from you guys!

Anna

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Review for The Tale of Hill Top Farm

The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Cozy British Mystery

Age Range – Anyone

Series – 1st book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Synopsis –

The story starts with a death in the small community of Sawrey. This causes a crisis for the villagers as the woman who died was going to host the newcomer, Ms. Potter, to the village. Ms. Potter has just bought the land of Hill Top Farm, and she is hoping to get some inspiration for her books. As the villagers try to figure out where to put Ms. Potter, things start disappearing from several local establishments. Ms. Potter must eventually decide whether she will become involved in the small village or go back home to her parents?

My Thoughts –

This book has all the charm of the British countryside. The plot is a bit slower as it takes time to introduce all the characters, but it is well worth it. Not so much a mystery as a fictional account of what it might have been like for Beatrix Potter to move away from her family. The author ensures that we know who the real people are in the story, and at the back of the book gives a chronological account of Beatrix Potter’s life at Hill Top Farm.

The author did something unique by having not only people in the story, but animals as well. The animals can talk among themselves and not to people. Several of the animals are real pets that Beatrix Potter had. The animals actually are quite the investigators of the story. It gives the book a touch of fantasy which really fits.

Another thing I liked was the characters. I know I say that about almost every book, but I truly mean it here. All the characters have a role to play in this tiny community. Whether it be the vicar, the constable, or the head teacher. The author lets us hear from a variety of perspectives, although the main voice belongs to Ms. Potter. There is a vary poignant moment between the vicar and an ill character which shows how much he cares for everyone.

Negative content –

  • Violence – One character dies of natural causes (off the page) and a character stumbles and breaks her leg
  • Language – None
  • Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

I am eager to read the rest of this series as it was amazing. It is the perfect fall book. If you are interested in more character development and less mystery, then this might be the book for you. It truly brought the world of Beatrix Potter to life and makes me want to go back and read her children’s stories.

I cannot wait to hear your thoughts!!

Anna

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Review for Murder on the Flying Scotsman

Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn

Genre – Mystery, 1930’s England

Rating – I would say in between a PG and PG-13. For mild language and intense moments

Series – Fourth in the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries

Summery –

Daisty Dalrymple is on her way to visit another home for her Town and Country articles. She is on a train when she finds the Chief Inspector’s daughter, Belinda, who ran away from home. Daisy invites Belinda to join her until can call the child’s grandmother. Meanwhile, a large family has also boarded the train, and they bicker and argue most of the trip. What will Daisy do when Belinda becomes a witness to a crime?

My Thoughts –

Goodness, this was an exciting read!! So far, this was the best of the Daisy Dalrymple series. The plot flowed nicely, and kept moving. Instead of taking place at a mansion, this one takes place on a train. Yes, it is a little reminiscent of Murder on the Orient Express, but also completely unique. It honestly took me a while to figure out who the suspect was which was a nice change.

The thing that stood out to me was the characters. We knew several of the characters from the previous three books. I loved the interaction between Daisy and Belinda as they finally got to have some bonding time. It was also fun to see another side of Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher. I loved how he wanted to keep his daughter safe, but also solve the murder. Daisy and Alec together is also kinda cute. Their relationship is a slow one, which is nice compared to so many books/movies.

Negative Content

Violence – Only a little violence in this book which was a nice relief. A couple characters stumble upon a dead victim. The murder happens off the page so that you know it happened, but do not actually see if happen. A character stumbles into some bushes and gets scratched. Several characters get scratched. Also mentions of suffocation

Language – Not much, an occasional word mostly just words you would find in a PG movie

Innuendo – Two kisses both brief. One scene where Daisy is grateful a child is there or she would have done something that she would have regretted.

Conclusion –

This is nice cozy that you could read on a rainy day. There is a great cast of characters from the mysterious Indian doctor to the lovable Belinda. I loved having it set on a train which set the stage for whole book. So far, this is my favorite in this particular series. It was a nice, light read. Age range would probably be teen on up.

Have you read this book or the series? What are your thoughts?

Anna

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Review for Greenglass House

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Genre – Middle-grade mystery/fantasy

Rating -PG – mild peril and a few choice words

Summary –

It is Christmas time, and all Milo wants to do is relax with his parents, but unexpectedly guests start arriving at the inn. Then items start disappearing from the guest’s rooms. Who is the thief, and is it connected to the guests sudden appearance?

My thoughts –

This is a tough book to write up as I have mixed feeling about it. It combines fantasy with a mystery, yet in a very down to earth way. First, there are many things that I liked about this book. The main character Milo is an upstanding hero who loves his parents, but struggles with being adopted. He and another character work together well as they try to figure out the puzzle. I thought the mystery part was well written, and did not know who the thief was until the reveal.

The author did something unique for middle grade fiction by making most of the characters adults. At the start of the book, I struggled keeping track of who everybody was as they arrived all at once, but later on you get to know the characters. The two kids are respect the adults and Milo will ask his parents for help when he needs it.

Another part of the plot revolves around Milo pretending to be a character in a campaign game which assists him in the investigation. Their campaign is based entirely on the events that have occurred at the inn. I think the game is somewhat similar Dungeons and Dragons in that there are a variety of characters to pick from, and they each have special abilities (I have not played D &D just heard of it). This also helps him imagine what his real parents might have been like.

Also, I should mention that part of the story involves thieves and stealing items. Milo’s parents own a inn where smugglers frequently visit. Some characters tell stories about a famous smuggler who supposedly hide his treasure.

Language – Milo’s parents and other guests say Oh my G a couple times. Five or six uses of the H word mostly used in a common phrase. Still I was surprised to see it in a middle grade book

Violence – A character pulls out a gun and waves it around. He tries to shoot someone, but nobody gets hurt.

Innuendo – None

Other –

Now, we come to the final odd bit of the book. I am going to try to be as spoiler free as possible, but it gives the surprise away. So, if you want to be surprised skip this next paragraph. Ok, to start a couple characters talk about having seen a ghost and tell the story. Later, we come to realize that one character is a ghost. Honestly, I was not expecting this. It came towards the end. It knocked the book down a couple notches for me. I think it could have been a perfectly fine book without sticking ghosts in it.

Conclusion –

I am still on the fence with this book. There are many good things that I enjoyed about this book. I loved the characters which were all quirky. The plot never dragged. I read it within a couple days. Despite other thing mentioned, I enjoyed this one. It reminded me a bit of the Mysterious Benedict Society. Age wise not sure. I think it would depend on the child, but middle school on up. Adults can enjoy it as well.

Have you read this book and or the sequel? What did you like/dislike?

Anna

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My Current Top 5 TV Shows

I love books, but I also love movies and shows that bring characters to life. I had been mauling this post over in mind for a while now and I think I will give a brief synopsis of the show and what I liked/disliked. Alright, so onward we go!!

#1 Psych

Synopsis –

So, basically two best friends help consult the Santa Barbara police department solve cases by pretending to be psychic detectives. Most of the time they stumble across clues due to Shawn’s observations. Shawn’s dad used to be a policeman on the force, and they have a rocky relationship. Gus is his best friend and works as a pharmaceutical salesman when not working on cases.

My thoughts –

First, I should admit that I did not discover this show until last fall, long after it finished airing, but this is a show that will get you hooked from start to finish. It has a good mix of comedy and drama. They are almost always cracking jokes even when working the cases, and can seem a little immature, but as you go along there are moments where we get to see the real Shawn and Gus. I love all the characters and their gradual development over the eight seasons.

Plus, if you have not seen the show, now is a good time to start as a new tv movie will be airing this holiday season.

Dislikes – Language. The first several season keep the language down, but around season 6 or 7 they say a bit more. A couple kissing scenes that overdo it.

Rating – PG – Some mild innuendo throughout the show, and a bit of language. Great for teens on up.

#2 Leverage

Leverage:first season in 2019 | TV series | Leverage tv show ...

Synopsis –

Nate Ford’s son dies due to his insurance company refused to pay for his treatment. So to get even Nate joins a group of thieves to take from the powerful and give to those in need. It is like a modern Robin Hood with a touch of White Collar.

My Thoughts

This has been quite an entertaining show to watch. This ragtag band of misfits come together and find a sort of family. Despite the fact that they are committing crime, they are trying to right wrongs and I like that. All the characters have their own niche that they are good at, but put them together and they can do great things. My favorite characters are Eliot and Parker. They are quirky and both of their pasts are a little darker/sadder then some of the other characters.

Dislikes – Language, there is some infrequent mild language throughout the series. Two brief scenes where one character takes a shirt off, but you only see her from behind. A hint that two characters slept together. Maybe two times where you see women in bikinis. The violence is not to bad. Only a little blood is shown.

Overall – We have been able to watch this as a family and enjoy the characters develop. I love the more complex heists which throw a couple curve-balls at you.

Rating TV14 – for violence and language

#3 BBC Robin Hood

Robin Hood (TV Series 2006–2009) - IMDb

Synopsis –

Robin of Locksley returns after the crusades to find that his village has been overtaken by the sheriff and his men. Becoming an outlaw, he gathers together a group of outcasts and tries to protect his people and those he loves.

My Thoughts –

This is another recent find and I have enjoyed this series immensely. Yes, it is a little cheesy, and yes, the fight scenes are corny, but it is the acting and characters that makes this good. The BBC knows how to put together a good drama. I love Robin and Marian together. They are the cutest couple, and they have to go through so many obstacles. The sheriff is truly evil and I root for Robin and his gang. They also give Robin flaws which is nice.

If you have seen The Hobbit, Guy of Gisborne is Thorin Oakenshield.

Dislikes –

Honestly, so far it has been a pretty clean show. The violence is super cheesy and light. They do show a hanging or two, but Robin mostly saves the people from getting hurt. Language is almost nonexistent, maybe a choice word here or there. So far (I am currently in the middle of season 2) only like three scenes with innuendo. Some of Marian’s dresses are a little low.

Overall – So far I have really enjoyed it and look forward to finishing it. Update – I finished it!! Interesting ending. I actually kinda liked it.

Rating – PG

#4 BBC Sherlock

I can't not recommend this... While I love RDJs action-packed ...

Synopsis –

This is a modern remake of the story of Sherlock. Sherlock is a consulting detective for Scotland yard. He meets a injured army doctor returning from war and they end up working together to solve crime. But how far will Sherlock go to keep his friends safe?

My Thoughts –

The first time I watched it, I thought hmm, this is kinda good. Then as we ended season one I thought, how cruel!!! You can not end it like that! They got me hook, line and sinker. πŸ™‚ Anyway, the acting is supurb, and the mysteries are intense! Most of the episodes come from a story in the original books. I am the type of person who will overlook plot holes, if the show/book has really good characters. Sherlock’s character development over the four seasons is absolutely amazing! I love how he grows as a character from being quit the jerk to saving his friend’s life. My favorite episode is probably The Sign of Four. So many good moments in there.

Dislikes –

There are a couple content issues as sometimes it can be a little dark. The language is not too bad, mostly mild language with some British cuss words thrown in occasionally. The violence includes someone falling off a building, a couple time where someone is shot, a scary dog hallucination, and bombs. For the innuendo, there is one episode we skipped which is the first episode in season 2 and there is some stuff in the last episode of season 3 where Sherlock gets a girlfriend, but just for a case. There are some sad scenes with Watson in season 4, but they way it is resolved is quit good. Very tearful.

Rating – TV14

Overall –

Due to what I mentioned earlier, I would say teen on up with this show. I do love it! There is some amazing acting, sets are great, as are costumes!

#5 Doc Martin

Doc Martin (TV Series) (2004) - FilmAffinity

Synopsis –

A brain surgeon suddenly develops a blood phobia and moves from London to the town of Port Wenn where he becomes there local GP. He is a crusty curmudgeon who has no bedside manner. Yet, he meets a local school teacher who finds a place in his heart.

My Thoughts –

This another British drama that is excellent. I like that this drama show regular people as they are with their issues and quirks. Normal people with problems. Marin has a really good character arc as he discovers things about himself. Louisa is another character who is great! There is a will they won’t they that goes on for quit a while. A little annoying as they go back and forth for a long time. Lastly, the scenery is absolutely beautiful!! It is set in Port Issac which they rename Port Wenn for the show.

Dislikes –

The doc sometimes likes to use colorful language now and then. He has a statue of Buddha, and definitely not a believer. The violence is minimal as the most you see if a little blood. In a later season someone get cut from glass which they do show. We only skipped maybe two episodes in season 2 or 3 . A couple references to character not being faithful. Two characters slept together outside of marriage once.

Overall –

The show feels light and despite the doc’s surliness, you do see that he cares about the people in the town. Then one is probably teen on up. Younger kids might get bored.

Rating – TV14

So have you seen any of these shows? Did you like/dislike them? Any shows that you would suggest?

Anna

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Review for The Forsaken Continent

The Forsaken Continent by Wayne Thomas Batson

Genre –Β  Fantasy, Christian fiction

Age – Young adult – adult

Rating – PG-13 – handful of choice words and action violence

Synopsis –

This is the third book in the Myridian Constellation series.Β  Currently there are only three books in the series, but there will be more.Β  Anyway, the story takes place a couple months after the Errant King.Β 

King Lochlan is fleeing for his life after Morlan has overtaken the throne and is willing to kill anyone who will get in his way.  Meanwhile Abbagael is looking for her presumed dead husband, Alastair, who she believes is alive. 

My Thoughts –

Whew! After ten years, I finally got to find out what happened. This book took me on quiet the ride and I enjoyed every minute of it. There were so many good themes throughout this book. Self-sacrifice, being faithful, patience, and perseverance. What I loved was that the word building. The author does a great job of creating a world and yet not being overly descriptive.

There was definitely more of an allegorical tone in this book. More so then the previous two, which I loved. Telwyn was sort of like a Jesus character. He was the son of the First One and he had a wisdom that comes from the First One. We see him perform miracles and a handful of people following him know who is. One of my favorite lines was when Telwyn told a character, “Flander Craggit, you need not fear Woefire ever again, for my Father has written your name on the Scrooll of Life. No one can expunge the blessed ink of His pen.” (Batson, p. 278).

I loved Abbagael and the journey that she embarked on as of all the characters Alastair Coldhollow was my favorite. In the previous books, we saw his steadfastness to the First One and his endeavor to right the wrongs that he had committed. I am trying not to give spoilers so you will just have to go read it for yourself. πŸ™‚

Now content wise only a few concerns. With Morlan’s return, he brought back countless evil creatures with him. For the most part, the author did not go into detail about these vile creatures , but they are evil and perform evil deeds. Also, it should be noted that Morlan served Sabryne who was basically Satan in the books. So there are a couple times where it was a little dark. That is why I would say this is more aimed at adults then teens. Do not worry there is a clear distinction between who is good versus who is evil.

Violence –

Violence was a given as Morlan is trying to conquer all of Myriad but was not gratuitous. Throughout the book there are skirmishes between the good characters and the bad. The good characters get cuts, scrapes, a couple characters get minor injures from daggers. There are several wolf like creature who attack a main character. In one of the skirmishes a character is presumed to be dead, but Telwyn reveals that he was just sleeping.

There are several mentions of blood. A couple character bled. A character goes into labor. (not much detail and rather quick). Later on in the book there is a mantis like creature who resides in a lake of blood. She attempts to kill a character.

Innuendo –

Two of the main characters kiss twice and contemplate marriage.

Language – Ba- —d is uttered seven times.

Conclusion –

After such a long wait, this book answered some much needed questions. Compared to the first two books, I feel like this one had more depth. It iover 500 pages long! We know these characters and we get to see their personal development for good and bad as some characters make some poor choices. This could be read as a stand alone, but I would highly recommend reading this series in order.

Cannot wait to hear what you have to say! Have you read this series? Did you enjoy how this book played out?

Anna

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Review for Quest

Quest by Aaron Becker

Wordless picture book

Age range- 2-5

Book Rating – G

Summary –

It is a tale of two kids who go on an adventure to help a king save his kingdom from destruction. Their goal is to find the missing crayons before the guards catch them.

My Thoughts –

So, I stumbled upon this book in the wordless section at my library. I looked through it first and decided to show the kids at work. It was hands down a winner!!! They loved it, and I love narrating what the characters are doing. πŸ™‚

First, the illustrations are amazing. They really draw the reader into the story. I get more out of the story the more I read it. Lots of little details hiding in the pictures. What is even cooler, is that the kids in the story draw some of the illustrations. Think of the movie Bedtime Stories and that is kinda of what happens here.

Secondly, the plot is quite creative. The story spans all three books and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The author does a great job inspiring kids to use their imagination. Certain characters develop more then other characters. It is a neat twist on fantasy for young children.

Just a side note, but this is the second book in a wordless trilogy. I did not know that when I first read it to the kids. They kept asking for more “king books” and I found out there are two more. We have read them as well and the kids adore all of them.

Language – None

Violence –

There are some guards with spears chasing the kids throughout the book , but nothing happens.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion

If you know a young child, run over to your nearest library and find this book! I enjoyed so much and the kids at work beg me to read it. The illustrations are bold and colorful. Plus, it depicts different types of geography.

Until next time,

Anna