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. 😉

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

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

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

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. 🙂 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

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

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. 🙂 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

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. 😉 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

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.

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. 😉

Anna

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