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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

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

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

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 . ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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.

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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

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

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?” ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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.

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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