Summer Book Review

Wow! It’s hard to believe that August is already upon us! My summer has flown by and honestly, been a bit slow on the reading front. My brother got married in June which was exciting. A lot of thought and preparation went into the wedding. It surprised me how many little details were involved.

Season 3 Netflix GIF by Stranger Things

Anyway, I have a few books that I’ve finished and have been simmering on the brain. One of which I still can’t decide whether I liked it or not.

Let’s begin!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)

Genre – Fantasy

Series – Harry Potter Book 5

Age – YA

Rating – PG-13 for violence

This has been my year for reading my way through the Harry Potter books. I’ve found these to be very enjoyable, especially via audiobook as Jim Dale does a great job creating voices for the characters.

Most people have at least heard of these books. This has been my first go. Honestly, been surprised by them as I was excepting flimsy writing and childish characters. By The Order of the Phoenix, I’ve grown to like so many of the characters. The story has progressed and become more complex throughout the books.

What I Liked –

~Fred and George’s Antics – When Harry gave them his winnings from the tournament, I was excited to see what they’d do with it. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes such a good joke shop name. I love the twins! They provide the levity needed to brighten the dark tone.

~Neville’s Parents – We finally find out what happened to Neville’s parents. It’s heartbreaking, but reveals Neville’s loyalty. Plus, nice to see Neville actually succeed in the D. A. meetings. He fought so hard to master the defensive charms. Also, mimbulus mimbletonia. 😉

~The D. A. meetings – These provided some of the best moments in the book. These students actually took to learning on their own, and they were able to hide it from the rest of the school.

~ Mentor Lupin – It has taken me a while, but I’ve decided that Lupin is my favorite character. He is gentle with Harry, and yet, speaks to him like a man. Lupin gives us some insight into what Harry’s father was like. We also see his struggles as well.

~Snape’s background – Although a brief snippet, we come to understand why Snape has such a strong hatred for Potter. I felt sorry for him. Hoping we get to see more of his past. Maybe a softening between Harry and Snape?

Dislikes –

~ Harry’s Emotions – My goodness! This boy goes through so many! The author especially shows his anger. I’m glad we find out why, but on the whole I thought Harry was very whiny. I wanted to smack him on the head and tell him to buck up.

~ Tea with Cho – On the whole, I don’t mind Cho. However, I can’t say she worked well with Harry. Her relationship with him felt forced and more admiring what he did for Cedric.

Quotes –

“Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, t0 be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing, Potter . . . or at least, most minds are. . .” He smirked” (P. 530).

“”It was worth it though,” said Fred, who was taking order from clamoring Gryffindors. “If you want to add your name to the waiting list, Herminone, it’s five Galleons for your Basic Blaze box and twenty for the Deflagration Deluxe. . . .” (P. 634).

Up next:

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruger

Ordinary Grace

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruger

Genre – Historical Fiction, Mystery, Coming of Age

Age – Adult

Rating – PG-13 for innuendo and violence

I was browsing at Barnes & Noble and stumbled across this book. A couple years ago I’d read one of Kruger’s other books called This Tender Land. It was unique and left a imprint on me. So, I was curious about this one set in the 60’s.

Ordinary Grace tells the story is told from the perspective of Frank Drum, a preacher kid. Frank and his brother Jake enter a summer that will change both of their lives. A string of deaths will test what really holds a family together and see how grief effects lives differently.

Likes –

~ Characters – Kruger has way of speaking directly to you through his characters. Frank is your typical 13 year old boy, and despite his tendency for trouble, he loves his family. Jake was a character painted in subtle tones, but we we see his wisdom and maturity for his age. Also, really liked Nathan, their dad. The author shows respect for the position of a pastor. Nathan loves his congregation and desires to see them grow. Plus there is Gus, hard not to like him, although he is stubborn as a mule.

~Small Town – You can tell the author grew up in the Midwest. He captures life in a rural town so well: The barber shop meet zone, railroad tracks, even the quarry swimming hole.

~Mystery – The four deaths that rock this town to the core are each complex. Some of them we never do get a reason why they occurred. This felt realistic, sometimes we don’t get all the answers.

~Ending – For me the epilogue really sealed the deal. I loved the time jump and seeing Frank and Jake as adults brought closure to the story.

Dislikes –

~Karl Brandt -His secret, while it explained Ariel’s behavior, felt unnecessary.

~ The whole Emil Brandt situation – just no.

Quotes –

“In my own life, the two trains of this problem are the summer of 1961 and the present. And they collide every year on memorial day in the cemetery in New Brennen” (P. 301).

“I just wasn’t afraid anymore. I mean, maybe nobody else would even think of it like a miracle, but for me it felt that way. . . If we put everything in God’s hands, maybe we don’t any of us have to be afraid anymore” (P. 282).

Next: A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It

By Norman Maclean

Genre – Historical Fiction

Age – Adult

Rating – PG for some mild innuendo

I saw the movie a while back and was curious to see if the book was much different. It is very much a summer book as most it discusses fly fishing. It tells the story of the Maclean family, Norman and Paul grow up in Montana are the sons of a Presbyterian minister. Fishing is their way of life. Norman eventually becomes a teacher, while Paul a reporter. Its small stories that are all connected.

I struggled with the fly fishing sections as most of it went over my head. I’ve only been fishing a handful of times and those using worms as bait. For me I struggled to visualize certain movements. However, I can appreciate that fly fishing is an art form that takes years to master.

I loved learning about Norman and Paul’s upbringing, how they were taught. Their father seemed to be a hard man to please. Fishing was something that brought the three together. I believe most of the book was based upon the author’s real life. It does make me want to go visit Montana and fish by the river.

Quotes:

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.” (P. 1)

“As a Scot and a Presbyterian, my father believed that man by nature was a mess and had fallen from an original state of grace” (P. 2).

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him all things – trout as well as salvation come by grace” (P. 85).

Lastly: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

Genre – Contemporary fiction

Rating – PG-13 for language and attempts of suicide

I’ve read two previous books by Backman: Brit Marie was Here and Deal of a Lifetime, and have found him to be a decent writer. Brit Marie was different, a breath of fresh air. After finishing an audiobook, I was on the hunt for something new. Decided to try this Backman book as it had high reviews.

To be honest, I still have an hour left, 😉 but I have really enjoyed Ove so far. Backman really knows how to make characters that speak to your soul. They are relatable and he doesn’t shy away from showing the sad parts of life.

Ove is a fifty some year old curmudgeon who has has had enough of life. He just wants to die. He tidies his house and does his morning inspection of the neighborhood for burglars and rule breakers before prepping to install a screw in the ceiling. During his inspection, he sees the new neighbors who have moved in: a husband and his Iranian wife & kids. Ove is not impressed. Through a series of events, Ove’s neighbors show him a brighter side of life and that one is needed.

We find out about Ove’s past through a series of flashbacks. We hear how he met his wife, their trials medically, and her death. Ove was truly dedicated to his wife. She brought a ray of sunshine into his life.

I know it sounds like a depressing and sad read, but it isn’t. In fact, I have found myself laughing as I’m driving. Parvaneh cracks me up. She can be just as sarcastic as Ove. Puts a smile on my face before I head to work. While Ove has a crusty outside, we see how he defended Sonja or how he helps the neighbors. His friendship with Rune really shows how much time can sneak by without us realizing it.

Now, he does attempt to kill himself three times. However, each time, he is interrupted by a doorbell or someone who needs his help. He begrudgingly does, and each time there is humor regarding Ove’s situation.

My one complaint is the gay character that gets stuck in towards the end. He doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the book and feels more like a statement.

Quotes –

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”

“He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.”

“It’s been six months since she died. But Ove still inspects the whole house twice a day to feel the radiators and check that she hasn’t sneakily turned up the heating.”

Soon, I’m hoping to finish Can’t Hurt Me by David Groggins.

Have you heard of any of these books? How is your summer reading going? What have you enjoyed reading?

That’s all for now!

Happy August!

Rereading Anne

Hello fellow Blogger Chums!

I’ve taken another rather long hiatus, and I’m Sorry about that. Life has proceeded to bring changes which take some adjusting to. My sister and I recently moved, only a few miles from where we were, but a move just the same. It was my first time which kinda stressed me out.

We have been at the new place for about a month. Due to all this, my reading kinda went into a slump. Before moving I was reading, Suns Will Rise, took me like three weeks to finish. After that I read our book club pick of Skeletons on the Zahara which was fascinating. Both of these are not light-hearted.

After those, I needed a reread! And this weather put me in the mood for Anne. So far I’ve reread the first 2 books in the series and hope to read the third soon.

Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea

By L. M. Montgomery

Genre – Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age

Rating – PG for mild peril and adventures

Synopsis – These two books tell the story of an orphan girl named Anne Shirley who has imagination and spirit to match her red hair. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are seeking to adopt a boy to help them around the farm as they are getting on in years. Along he way a mistake is made and Anne is sent to them instead. They must decide whether or not to keep her. Anne has quite a way of finding adventures and misshapes as she grows into a young lady.

My Thoughts –

This is such a sweet story to come back too. Both of these books are filled with vibrant descriptions of plants and the changing of seasons. They make for perfect summer reads.

Throughout the years I’ve read both multiple times, although I’ve read Green Gables more then Avonlea. For the longest time, I disliked Anne of Avonlea because it felt so much slower then the previous book. Plus, the whole Ms. Lavender’s romance dragged on for a while. I will say I was able to appreciate it more this go around. Mainly due to the fact that I’m a preschool teacher. So, I related to her trials with her students. It can truly be like walking a tightrope to juggle kiddos with a wide range of personalities! I love Anne’s gumption and spirit. She wants her students to excel and to take away life lessons.

There are so many fantastic characters in these novels. Anne of course is very relatable. Seems like every chapter she is getting into mischief, although mostly unintentionally on her part. She takes everything to heart and tends to crash when things don’t go as expected. There is a bit of Anne in me, especially my younger self. 😉

Gilbert Blythe is true rival of Anne despite his attempts to appease her wounded pride. I will say that he is very patient. I mean he waits 3 years for her to forgive him, that is a true gentleman.

Matthew is my second favorite. Now, he doesn’t say much, but when he does, you better listen. He can match his sister Marilla in stubbornness. He has genuine sweetness about him and is such a hard worker.

If you are looking for a film version, I highly recommend the 80’s versions with Megan Follows. While they don’t strictly follow the book, they capture the essence. Plus, they would make for a great family movie night.

Quotes –

“”I should say not. What good would she be to us?” “We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly” (P. 29).

“Oh Marilla,” she exclaimed one Saturday morning. . . “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (P. 120).

“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet” (P. 176).

These books hold up well and they are so accessible that anyone could read them. But especially MG or YA girls. There is an innocence in these first 2 books. I’ve really enjoyed rereading and going back to Prince Edward Island. I’d love to visit someday.

Have you ever read either of these books? Do you have a favorite in the series? Who do you relate to the most?

Up Next – After finishing Anne of the Island, I might give Anna Karenina a go, but no promises there.

Anna

Quick Lit – What I’ve been Reading Lately

It feels like forever since I’ve popped on here! Feel a little bad about that. 2022 has been an interesting year so far and has lots of changes in store. I’ll be moving soon which, honestly, not sure if I’m ready for it. Also, have a family wedding soon. This brings me to my point, I’ve been doing more listening than reading. I’m still counting audiobooks in my overall reading count. For me, it has just been easier.

Without further ado, I’ll mention some books that I’ve enjoyed over the past few months.

Season 7 Nbc GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine

The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel – Read

The Magic of Ordinary Days by Anne Howard Creel

Genre – Historical Fiction

Series – Stand-a-lone novel

Rating – PG for discussion of pregnancy before marriage

Age -Adult

My Thoughts – Honestly I don’t remember what lead me to put it on my list for this year?? I saw the movie a few years ago and enjoyed it, but at the time had no idea there was a book behind it. I must have seen this book somewhere on around the blogosphere.

However, I really did love this book!! The setting is beautiful, and takes place in 1944 on a Colorado farm in the fall. Olivia and Ray really drive the novel. All Olivia wants to be an archeologist visiting far off places. However, after her mother passes, Olivia falls for a Edward who is preparing for deployment. She ends up pregnant. He father arranges a marriage with a bean farmer, Ray. While there she becomes friends with two Rose & Lorelei, Japanese Americans who are in a camp. I really liked the portrayal of Ray and Reverend Cass’s faith. They both have a simple trust in the Lord and reverence for the Bible which was nice to see.

My only dislike was that Olivia got whiny and had trouble making up her mind. I almost wished the author could have alternated every other chapter with Ray.

Maid Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

Maid by Stephanie Land

Genre – Memoir, nonfiction

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for language and domestic violence

Age – Adult

This was one of our book club’s picks for April. Stephanie’s story is fascinating, especially since I have little knowledge regarding how people on such a low income live. Maid reminded me of the Pursuit of Happiness. Some sections irked me a bit with her whole attitude toward certain things. However, she truly worked hard to provide for her daughter. My favorite parts where her stories about the different houses she cleaned. To be honest I would not do well with all the black mold she had to clean. Her client Henry was so sweet! Most of the chapters titles are names for the different houses.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

by J. K. Rowling

Genre – Fantasy

Series – 3rd book in the Harry Potter series

Rating – PG for some name calling and peril

Age – YA

re

Now, this by far was my favorite of the first three. We see the characters mature a bit and get more backstory of Hogwarts before Harry. Surprised that we got a decent Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Lupin was the mentor that Harry needed! He has a calmness about him. Honestly, I wasn’t sure about Sirius, however, he grew on me. It was sweet hearing his defense of James and Lily. Of the three kids, Ron is my fav! If I was someone in real life, I’d be Nevil Longbottom. 😉

Well folks, that’s all I have for now!

Have you read any of these books? What’s your take on them? Favorite characters?

It’s hard to believe that April is almost here!

Up next – I wanted something easyish so am reading Hollow City, the second in Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series.

Anna

The Outsiders

Hello, again!

I know its been awhile since I’ve popped on, but excited to share the book I just finished. Back in November I was looking for a movie to watch and stumbled on The Outsiders. The plot sounded interesting so I gave it go; ended up loving the story. After the movie ended, I went and looked up the book that it was based upon. I remember seeing Hamlette @ https://theedgeoftheprecipice.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-outsiders-by-s-e-hinton.html mentioning how much she loved the book. I promptly put the book on my TBR list. Now that we are in the doldrums of February, I decided why not give it a read.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Genre – YA Fiction

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for gang violence and death

Synopsis –

Ponyboy Curtis lives with his two older brothers, Soda and Darry, who have raised him since their parents’ death. They are apart of a gang known as the greasers, who are known for living on the poor side of town and for causing trouble. Pony is a dreamer and has never quite fit in the gang, and the same goes for Johnny Pony’s best friend. After an incident, Pony and Johnny run away. Leading to Pony looking back at his life and figuring out what matters.

My Thoughts –

Wow, I ended up really loving this book!! I can already tell this will probably end up on my favorites list. 😉 Pony and Johnny really stood out to me as characters and I fell for both hard. Johnny especially needs a big hug. I loved how the author helps us understand why they do what they do. She doesn’t put a halo around the gang, but neither does she make it too dark.

Considering she was 14 when she started writing this book, I find it incredible that Hinton created such vibrant characters. Ponyboy feels like someone you’d meet on the street. There are many families with a similar environment to Johnny’s. As we slowly understand the Socs and greasers, I loved how Pony became aware that Randy, a soc, was just a boy like him. I feel like I should talk about Sodapop and Darry. Soda has such a cheery outlook on life, which makes him very likeable.

When I watched the movie, I didn’t like Darry much. He seemed so distant and cold. However, the book makes him more human, and by the end he made sense to me. The same goes for Dally. Hated him in the movie. Yet, we see just how much Johnny means to him. Dally truly wants Pony and Johnny to remain innocent and not pick up his bad habits. He has his flaws for sure, but there is a caring side too.

Hinton’s writing style is super simple which lets the plot and characters shine. Being that the novel is only 180 pages, it runs at a clip. I kept wanting the author to slow down a bit and explain who some of the minor characters were. By the end I just wanted more time with Pony, Soda, & Darry.

Johnny’s letter brought the book to a nice close and tears to my eyes. I knew it was coming, but it still hurt.

Quotes –

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” (P. 1).

“We’re almost as close as brothers; when you grow up in a tight-knit neighborhood like ours you get to know each other real well.” (P.3)

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different.” (P.40-41).

“Darry did care about me, maybe as much as he cared about Soda, and because he cared he was trying too hard to make something of me.” (P. 98).

“”Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold . . .” The pillows seemed to sink a little, and Johnny died.” (p. 148).

Content -Super surprised that there was hardly any swearing to speak of and very little innuendo. A few comments from Dally and that’s it. Now we do see some gang violence. Johnny ends up killing a Soc to save Pony’s life. We also see fights, and injuries on both sides. Johnny sustains third degree burns across his body and breaks his back while saving kids in a fire. He does end up dying.

Conclusion –

I’m surprised I never found this book in my high school years because I know I would have loved it then. I am grateful I did end up reading The Outsiders. Gives an interesting perspective to a different world then I am used to seeing. One thing that did seem odd was having Pony like Gone with the Wind. Just seemed like an odd choice. Overall, a fascinating read! Highly recommend it!

Up Next – Honestly, I need to finish Live not by Lies, but it has been a struggle.

How is your February going? Read anything surprising? Have you read The Outsiders or seen the movie?

Anna

In Which I Rave about Mirror of Souls

If you’ve read very many of my posts, you’ve probably figured out that I dig fantasy. Probably started when I was little. My mom read aloud a variety of books including Narnia, Wind in the Willows, and The Secret Garden to me and my siblings. Fantasy has a way of sparking the imagination of children and adults alike. It takes real concepts like faith, love, betrayal and spins them in way to be more palpable. As well as introduce you to new worlds and peoples.

Long story short, I remember the first time I found one of Batson’s books at a bookstore and bringing it home. Even just the cover was appealing. It was The Door Within. From there spawned a new fan who avidly devoured whatever series came next. One Christmas my grandparents gifted me with The Sword in the Stars, the original version from 2011. Of all his books, this was and is my favorite. The Myridian Constellation series feels deeper then some of his previous works. We have dark villains who last for multiple books and heroes who die. This is his latest installment, and it did not disappoint.

Mirror of Souls by Wayne Thomas Batson

Genre – Fantasy, Christian Fiction

Series – Book 4 in The Myriadian Constellation

Rating – PG-13 for violence and foul creatures

Synopsis –

Myriad is in ruins as Morlan Stormgarden has conquered most of the continent. Recently coming back from a brutal war eradicating the Gorrack nation, Morlan considers himself invincible. Locklan Stormgarden has other plans. He has quietly been growing an army to try to depose his evil uncle and to take back his rightful throne. Meanwhile Abbagael Coldhollow is recovering from the birth of her baby, Jak. She is disquieted and believes her lost husband, Alastair is still alive somewhere. Abbagael sets out to find him, even if it costs her everything she has. Telwyn is taking up the mantle of being the Halfainin which means he must sacrifice himself for his friends safety.

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest my synopsis does not do the book justice. Also bear in mind this being the fourth book, lots of stuff has happened previously. I do recommend starting in order. I even struggled at the beginning remembering where everyone was at and what they were doing. Been too long since I read the previous book. 😉

Shocked The Lord Of The Rings GIF by Maudit

I kinda looked like this as I red. Trying to put all the pieces together.

Anyway, let’s talk about what I liked.

Batson is the king of throwing twists and turns into a story. There were several throughout this book. A few I had anticipated, while others surprised me. He has a way of building the story and climax as to hold your attention. Some authors you reach the climax and could care less what happens to the characters. Not with Batson. The last two chapters were so hard! Why!? He ends it on several cliffhangers. I wish there was more to read. Oh, well. I’ll probably have to wait.

I honestly think his characters are some of the strongest I’ve read. He isn’t afraid to show you their dark side whether that be alcoholism or craving power. We see quite a bit from Morlan’s perspective which can be gritty. He truly wants absolute power. My absolute favorite character is Alastair Coldhollow! A few books back, he left the main story and his fate was unknown. Very much hoping Batson hasn’t ruined my favorite! Abbagael has grown on me especially in these last two books. She has a fire to her and a strong moral compass. Telwyn also is becoming a man who speaks truth. He is a Jesus like character, several moments were very touching and had me almost in tears!

Loch has never been a favorite of mine, but he does some soul searching and I am looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for him. We had some new additions Xerk & Strylun who are very viking like and I enjoyed seeing some new faces. In fact I am curious if these are same two characters that Batson had written a short story for a few years ago? Anybody know??

We are introduced to a new part of Myriad which is fun. Plus a sea turtle that has a mountain on his back!!! It’s why I love fantasy, literally anything can come to life.

There are two scenes are really loved!! One being Telywn and Morlan’s showdown. So good to see Morlan get a taste of his own medicine. Telywn is completly good and can handle almost anything. They also throw snide comments at each other which was kinda funny. Second, Telwyn revealing himself to Loch. Very emotional!

Batson is a believer so he weaves Christian themes throughout most of his books which is super cool. Self-sacrifice is a big one as well as loyalty, & perseverance. We saw the coming of the Halfainin, basically a Jesus type character, in the first book The Sword in the Stars. Here we see his death and how it breaks the death key. Also, Loch sees himself in mirrors revealing just how sinful he was. Love the picture of a chasm that he cannot cross, but Telwyn made a way.

My one dislike was that it took awhile to get going. This could all me on me. As I felt out of the loop, but I struggled actually getting into it. After the first 100 pages though things started clicking.

Quotes –

“Jak Alastair Coldhollow, you are a gift from the First One, and I love you with all my heart. Your father loved you, loves you too, but he has gone missing. I have to go and find him. It’s not fair, I know to leave you so soon.” (p. 92)

“Abbagael stares out over the black water. “I think I’m going to need to pray. . . a lot more.” “And we will pray for you even as we return to Willowdell,” Alec said. “The Maker of the Stars is worthy of your trust. Let Him be your compass.”” (p. 113).

“That is purity, Morlan” Telwyn declared. “It consumes your wickedness, and by that, I mean… it consumes you.” (p. 156).

Content – No language, a few suggestive comments here and there, but not much else. Now violence is a biggy. We see just how truly evil Morlan is as he has stolen gifts from people and uses it to kill any who oppose him. Also, quite a bit of blood in certain sections. Morlan literally liquidizes his enemies’ blood. Cythraul too can be quite cruel.

Conclusion

The book ended sooner then I had expected with the last chunk being a short story about how Alastair leaves behind his life as an assassin. For me that was nice surprise. It is hinted at in the previous books, but never fully revealed until now. Overall this is an intense story filled with flawed heroes trying to do what is right. The mark of good author is when you can tune out the world around you and be totally swept away by the story. Where it feels like you are in it. This happened for me. I do highly recommend this series!! I feel like I will be doing some rereading soon!

Have you read this series? Or maybe some of the authors other works? Who do you like/dislike? Why?

Up next – Before I read my next Christmas book, I need to read – A Short History of Canada for book club.

Anna

Review for The Hunger Games

Where to even start! This book was never on my radar until recently mostly due to the fact that all I knew of it was that teens killed teens. Several people in my sphere mentioned it including my book club. On a whim I thought I’d listen to the audiobook. Having a 15 minute drive to work, gives me plenty of time for listening. Well, I finished it a few days ago. After mulling it over, I thought I’d lay out my thoughts.

So here goes!

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Genre – Dystopian, YA

Series – 1st in The Hunger Games series

Rating – PG-13 for violence

Synopsis –

America no longer exists, and Panam has taken it’s place. Panam consists of twelve districts which are ruled by the Capitol. Most of the districts live in poverty and surrounded by rules & restrictions. Years ago the districts rebelled against the Capitol which resulted in district thirteen being obliterated. Now to remind the people of their submission, the capitol takes a boy and girl from each district and forces them to compete in a game to the death. Katniss loves her sister more then anything. Being from one of the poorest districts, Katniss has learned how to hunt and provide for her mom and sister. During the reaping, her sister’s name is called, and instead Katniss takes her sister’s place as tribute. She is whisked off to the Capitol with her fellow tribute, Peeta.

My Thoughts –

First off the narrator was fantastic! She gave each character a unique voice and captured their emotions well. I was impressed. For me the narrator can make or break a book. Even if the book was well written. So, liked that she did a good job.

Second, hats off to the author for being able to create a world grounded in our own, yet unique enough to be interesting. She had a way of writing that draws you into the story. For me this was more plot driven then character driven. The whole backstory and setting were well created. I liked how each district had it’s own resource. District 12 is somewhere in the Appalachian mountains which is a region that is fascinating.

Here is where it gets interesting, for a good chunk of the book I struggled to connect to any of the characters. My problem with Katniss was that she was so independent and strong that she was devoid of emotion. I mean really? She only loved Prim, who was kinda annoying. We do see the whole book from Katniss’s perspective so we get to know her really well. I just wished we could have softened some of her hardness. I’ll be honest I didn’t care for Peeta a whole lot. I know he is everyone’s favorite, but for this book, I liked Gale better as he was friends with Katniss from childhood.

Which lead us to the love triangle. While is isn’t horrible in this one, it is there. This trope has been way overused. Most of it was staged for the games which was different. But this will have repercussions later on for both of them. Katniss kinda was oblivious to the fact that Peeta actually liked her. Like really??? How did she not see that?

Peeta is nice to a fault. He loves people passionately, cares for his brothers, and has a humorous side. I just didn’t like him with Katniss. I did like Gale & Haymitch (not sure on spelling due to audiobook). Despite his being almost always drunk, Haymitch did have some good advice. Acted like a father to Katniss. Also, Rue! She was probably the best character in the whole book.

Let’s talk about the actual games.

To start I think the author used the games to show just how corrupt the government was. She shows that the crowds actually like it when a tribute dies. This is what the Capitol loves. Vanity, shows, and seeing just how far these kids will go to protect themselves. This is what Katniss and the others are up against. Even the President manipulates people. However, I did want Katniss to team up and make a stand that they won’t fight. Band together and make a statement. While she does try to take away there being a victor, I thought it was too little. So many lives could have been saved.

Do teens kill each other? Yes, they do. Do they want to? No, most of them are pawns and being forced into this.

It is an interesting story that is about love, survival, & self-sacrifice.

Content – No language which was surprising! Some innuendo, mostly just kisses tho. Violence is throughout the second half. Everything from a deadly hornet aka Tracker Jackers to sword wounds. Blood isn’t really talked about, but lots of characters die.

Conclusion –

Did I enjoy the story? Yes, to an extent I did. It was creative and the plot held my attention. I do wish the characters maybe were portrayed a little better. Tweak a few things here & there. I think the violence was a device used by the author to show the corruption, not to say I do wish there was less though. Also, I would probably not hand this off to a young teen. As an adult, I think it gives you things to think about. But definitely didn’t deserve all the hype it got.

I have started the second book which in some respects I like better. Although Katniss can still be so oblivious. 😉

What are your thoughts on this book? Favorite characters? Movies vs book?

Up next – I’m finally sinking my teeth into Wayne Thomas Batson’s newest installation in the Myridian Constellation series, Mirror of Souls!

Movies & Shows from 2021

Hello again folks!

I’m back for another look back at my favorite films from 2021. That being said I didn’t see a huge amount in theaters – roughly 7 total. However, streaming has made it easier to watch movies. I’m just going to list them in no particular as picking favorites can be so hard. I’ll try not to give spoilers, but there will probably be mild ones.

Excited Game GIF

On with the show!

Movies –

Quiet Place II – Sci-fi, dystopian – Rating – PG-13

Now I still think the first one was better, but the second put up a good show. I love that they cast a married couple in real life to play the mom and dad. It makes it feel real. The whole seeking help was fascinating! I don’t remember the lead girl’s name, but she was incredible. Traveling alone while being deaf! Is it scary? At times yes, but not gory. There is a lot to said for a movie depicting a close family in the face of loss and danger.

Black Widow – Superhero, Family – Rating – PG-13

I’ve been a marvel fan for quite some time. To be honest I didn’t have high expectations for Black Widow. While a strong character, Natasha was never a favorite of mine. However, I really liked seeing her adoptive family. It explained why Natasha was the way she is. I loved her sister!! She stole the show!!! Plus, her dad was a hoot. This is yet another film about family and forgiveness. Also, was not as dark as I had expected it to be, which was a bonus. I’d say you don’t really have to have seen other Marvel movies to see this, but it does explain the end credit scene.

Spider Man No Way Home – Superhero, Coming of Age, Rating – PG-13

Another Marvel movie!! Again I didn’t have super high expectations, I like Tom Holland’s Spider-man, but wasn’t sure where they would take this. Got to say though, it was good! Probably, one of the best Spider-man movie I’ve seen. Dr. Strange was fun to see! His interactions with Peter were hilarious. Plus seeing the three spider-men together! Awesome. Plus the plot was unique and different from your normal Marvel movie.

Dear Even Hansen – Musical, Coming of age, Rating – PG-13

I stumbled across the music from Dear Evan Hansen two years ago. They really spoke to me and I had them on repeat. It was during a time where I reacted to everything and connected with Evan. Now, I didn’t really know the story, just pieced it together. So when I heard they were making a movie, I was psyched!!! The movie was different then what I had anticipated, but not in a bad way. They did cut some of my favorite songs though. 🙁

It covers a tough topics like social anxiety, fitting in, and a family facing the suicide of their son. I feel like this topic is a bit taboo and not much discussed. Even in the church. All the characters have flaws and the movie shows that. I love the message that everyone matters. They just missed the part of why they matter. But that’s to be expected. How cool would it have been if they showed how the Lord can heal the broken! I do wish they showed more consequences for Evan lies. Supposedly the Broadway version does. Which I’d love to see. Maybe someday.

Free Guy – Fantasy, Comedy – Rating – PG-13

I saw this trailer and thought it looked funny and reminiscent of the Lego Movie. My brother saw it in theaters and recommended it. When I watched it, I had a hard time not laughing. I haven’t really seen Ryan Reynolds in many things, but he fit the role of Guy perfectly! There were several plot twists that added some uniqueness. Plus Joe Keery as Keys! I kept wanting to call him Steve. 😉 His character gets a nice arc and a cute little romance. Recommend if you need a laugh!

Last but not least . . .

The Outsiders – Coming of age – PG

I had recently heard of the book, but knew nothing of the movie. Hamlette @ The Edge of a Precipice had mentioned loving the book. I stumbled across the movie for free on demand. Honestly, I had no clue what the story was, which I think was perfect!!

Ended up really enjoying this movie!! Ponyboy is very relatable character, he doesn’t quite fit in with either the gang or his family. After his friend Johnny gets in trouble, they hide out together. There is a lot about family, loyalty & self-sacrifice. Bring a box of tissues though, the end had me tearing up. I’ve now put the book on my TBR list for the year. Going to leave you with a quote, “Stay golden, Ponyboy.”

Shows –

Honestly, I didn’t find many new shows this year. I finished a few though.

Merlin – Fantasy

I’ve talked a lot about this show already. I finished it last March and it left a hole. Merlin is such a noble and loyal person. He puts up with so much crap from Arthur. I wished we could have had more time where Arthur knew who Merlin really was. Oh well!

Friends – Sitcom

My sister got me into Friends. It isn’t my favorite show ever, but it is good after a long day. Short episodes are super nice. Personally, I love Joey and Chandler’s interactions! Phoebe also adds an odd with lovable flare.

Lost – Sci-fi – Re-watch

I know I only just finished it a little over a year ago, but I missed the characters. So, there! I had forgotten how much I had liked Jack in season 1. So much builds from this season!

Stranger Things – Sci-fi – Re-watch

We were late to the party discovering Stranger Things. However, we had a fun time watching it all together a few years ago. It kinda became an older sibling thing. After finishing the episodes for the night, we’d begin discussing theories, likes, & dislikes. Its been roughly two years and I’d forgotten much of the plot line. My sister and I began back with season one. The kids are so little!! Wow! Seasons 1 & 3 are the best. 2 got a little sidetracked and didn’t care for the new characters. Steve as a babysitter is one of the best bullies to heroes stories I’ve seen. Little bit of content to be aware of, quite a bit of language as well as a scare factor. Plus some innuendo.

Well that all I’ve got!! Whew!! That was a long post! Hope you enjoyed it! Now over to you. Have any new movies/shows that stuck out to you? Or maybe a favorite that you returned to? It’s hard to believe we are already six days into the new year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Anna

2021 Books in Review

Well folks, we are closing in on the finish of 2021 with only one more day left. Overall this has been a hard year. Started a new job in June which has its ups and downs. Then at the beginning of August I got Covid which was rather unpleasant. At least now I can say I had it and recovered. So, as we think about what the future holds, I have been thinking back to the books and movies I’ve seen this year. My total was 60 books!!! I’m just going to list my top favorites. A lot of these books you’ve probably heard me talk about before, but they are favorites for a reason. 😉

Let’s start with the books!!

fox films book GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

#8 Caraval by Stephanie Garber – Fantasy- Review for Caraval

Caraval (Caraval, #1)

Caraval is like entering a circus for your brain. It’s glittery and vibrant. Has some good messages about family, although quite a bit of innuendo. I liked the first one, however the next two books lost some of the magic and I didn’t end up liking the characters.

#7 Greenwillow – Fantasy, fiction – Review for Greenwillow

Greenwillow

I’d seen this book quite a bit from different bloggers. Reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables which I loved! Simple life of a family and a small rural town. Good for if you need something light-hearted! Will make you laugh!

#6 The Power of One by Bryce Courtney – historical fiction

The Power of One (The Power of One, #1)

This was a spring read for our book club. I’d never heard of this author before, but ended up liking more then I expected. Taken from the author’s experience as a kid growing up in South Africa. Covers some tough themes – bullying, loss, abandonment

#5 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Sci-fi – Review for Ender’s Game

At the beginning of the year, I had looked up clasic science fiction. Ender’s Game was one of the ones on the top of the list. It’s unique and takes a look at how far the government will go to beat a supposed enemy, including manipulating kids. Gives a lot to think about. Ender is a complex character who has flaws, but you sympathize with him.

#5 Les Miserables – Historical fiction – Review for Les Miserables

Les Misérables

I have listened this music ever since I was little as it is my grandma’s favorite musical. I’ve read an adapted version and knew I should go for the unabridged. It’s lengthy, and the author deviates a lot, however, the story of redemption is well worth it. Jean Valjean alone is a fascinating.

#4 Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – WWII – Review for Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

I reread this back at the beginning of 2021. For some reason this book speaks to me. I love how the characters protect each other’s secrets. Four teenagers each face decisions as they flee to escape Germany. As they trek to the sea, they face crowds, ice and limited space on the few ships available. Based on the true nautical disaster greater then then the Titanic.

#3 Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – science fiction –

This was another book club pick for July. I had just finished The Martian when they chose PHM. It tells the story of man who wakes up on a spaceship with amnesia. He has to figure out why he is there before Earth is wiped out. I actually liked this one a smidge better then The Martian. The main character is a middle school science teacher which connected with me. Plus, Rocky is the best alien I’ve ever met!!

#2 The Book Thief – reread – WWII fiction – Review for The Book Thief

Years ago I got this movie as a Christmas gift and then read the book. It became one of my favorite movies of all time. But it has been a few years and had forgotten quite a bit. Tells the story an orphan girl whose adopted parents hide a Jew during the war. Beautiful story! Bring a box of tissues!

It should be no surprise what was my favorite book this year!! 😉

#1 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas- Adventure – reread – Review for The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

I read this book in high school and honestly don’t remember why I chose it. Maybe was from a book list for literature. Whatever the reason, I ended up loving it!! Dante has an incredible developmental arc!! This book has it all from romance to sword duels. Yes, it is long, but keep going! Dumas uses even the small characters to play a roll in Dante’s revenge.

So has has your reading year been? Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favorite reads? Any books you are looking forward to in the coming year?

Up next – I’ll review favorite movies/shows from this past year!

Anna

Reread of The Hobbit

As we close in on Christmas, this is a great time to finish the last few books on the ever growing TBR pile. This year has been hectic and stressful at times. Many changes will be occurring in the next few months. Which put me in the mood for a comfort read. I set aside several other books and just let myself be swept up in the tale of a small hobbit. It honestly was the perfect read.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Genre – Fantasy

Series – A prequel to the Lord the Rings, written first

Rating – PG for peril and danger

Synopsis –

Bilbo Baggins is a quiet Hobbit who loves the comforts of his own home. One day Gandalf, the Wizard, comes by asking if Bilbo would like to go on an adventure. Despite Bilbo’s protesting, Dwarves begin showing up one evening. They cause a ruckus and poor Bilbo is unsure what is going on. With a little prodding he joins their mission to go to the Lonely Mountain and capture their long forgotten gold from a dragon.

My Thoughts –

This story has become so ingrained in our culture; most people know at least vaguely about The Hobbit. However, recently I’ve meet two individuals who had never heard of The Hobbit, which surprised me greatly. These books were such a big part of my childhood. I can remember seeing The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings sitting on our bookshelf when I was little. I was 13 when I first read The Hobbit. The cover I used up above is the same cover that I have. You cannot look at it without being intrigued. One time I was not feeling so good, and I remember my mom sitting next to me reading An Unexpected Party. So, it goes without saying that I love this book!

Anyway, it has been several years since I’ve picked up The Hobbit. I had reread The Lord of Rings a little over a year ago. So felt in the need for some more Tolkien. 🙂

Tolkien is a master wordsmith. He writes in such a way as to create a realistic world similar enough to our own and yet unique. Middle earth is filled with lush landscape and dark forests filled with all manner of creatures. I mean he invented orcs and mines of Moria.

Of all the characters in The Hobbit, I relate to Bilbo the most. We would be kindred spirits. He loves his hobbit-hole and is quite fond of food. While I don’t eat as much as hobbits do, I love comfort food. Tea, biscuits, cake, cheese! Yes, please! I love how Tolkien develops Bilbo and he goes from a scared rather flighty person to someone who will risk is own share of the treasure for the peace and safety of his friends.

Also, the elves. I had forgotten how cheerful and musical they were in the book. Would love to spend time in Rivendell and hear all the stories of old. Elrond sounds like a great host.

It was nice seeing Gandalf take more of a back seat and more a conductor then playing a big role. Now way back when I don’t remember ever really liking Bard. But this go around I really loved his small role. I do like how the movies portrayed him. Gave him more background and family, yet keeping in line with the book.

There are so many great things I could say about this book!! I mean talking dragons, riddles – which I struggled to solve on my first read. The songs are a lot of fun too!!

Quotes –

“This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbor’s respect, but he gained – well you will see whether he gained anything in the end” (p. 2)

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.” (p. 1).

“As they sang the hobbit fell the love of beautiful things made by hands” (p. 15)

“”That would be no good” said the wizard, “not without a mighty warrior, even a hero. I tried to find one; but warriors are busy fighting one another in distant lands” (p. 21-22).

“You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all” (p. 305).

Content – Honestly, there isn’t much to mention here. We have fights and battles. A few scary creatures like goblins, trolls, and wargs. A few characters die.

Conclusion –

What a nice to book to sip with a warm tea on a cold night. As I look back on the books I’ve read this past year, I want to give myself grace next year. More freedom to just pick up whatever book fancies me. Less pressure to finish a certain amount. The Hobbit is a wonderful book, although originally written for children, it has lessons that even us adults can appreciate. Plus, who doesn’t love a solid fantasy story that has held up well with time. This is a classic that everyone should read sometime in their life.

Up Next – I’m hoping to do a post reviewing some of my favorite books of the year!

What are your thoughts on The Hobbit? Is this a book you grew up with or discovered later? Do you like the movie?

Anna

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I had some high expectations for this book, let’s just say I absolutely loved the movie!! Quirky, odd, unique characters, & of course time travel. For me I love seeing the different ways to portray time travel. And these time loops are different and kinda fun. Also loved how Jacob was portrayed in the movie. Now I was disappointed with certain aspects of the book, but we will discuss that later.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

Genre – Sci-fi, YA

Series – 1st book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series

Rating – PG-13 for scary monsters and language

Synopsis –

Jacob is like most smart 16 year olds; he keeps to himself and is close with his grandfather, Abe. When Jacob was little, Abe told him some of the most fantastical stories about living on an island during WWII with children with special capabilities. One day Jacob gets call from his grandfather who sounds distressed and in danger. Unfortunately by the time Jacob finds him, its too late. His grandfather is only able to whisper a few odd sentences before he dies. Slowly, Jacob begins to unravel the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s past.

My Thoughts –

Let’s start with what I liked : the first person narrative – for me this worked really well. You connect with Jacob and it was nice to see how to put together the pieces of the mystery. Jacob also has flaws & doubts; he is not perfect by any means, but it is a likeable character.

Abe – Also, really liked the grandpa in both book and movie. He is smart and an ex-solider who did his duty in world war II. He tried so hard to keep his family safe from the monsters. And yet he wasn’t the best dad. I feel like the things that happened during the war and his time on the island, probably led Abe to keep so many secrets that it was hard letting people inside.

Miss Peregrine herself – what a job keeping so many children safe and hidden while keeping the time loop going. She also was super knowledgeable about the world around them. She is able to multitask like nobodies business. Plus, I mean she can turn herself into a bird. That’s a pretty cool capability. Now, I do wish we could have spent more time with her, most of the book resolved around Jacob.

Last but not least the Setting – part of the story occurs in Florida, which I’ve visited several times. The author does a great job describing the scenery. Then we jump to the island off the coast of Wales. Which provided the perfect location!! All the rain and the small fishing village. Perfect!

One more note I loved how the author came up with the idea. He found all these old photos at flee markets and picked out the odd & bizarre ones and created a story surrounding them. Pretty neat!

Now on the Dislikes 😉

First, got to say did not like Emma and Jacob together in the book. Emma’s character just didn’t work. To me she was snobbish and the whole knowing Jacob’s grandfather was odd. Big pass for me. In the movie however, they switched characters and it was fine.

Also, the ending! Esh, like what even. We don’t get a good description of why the Wights are taking the ymbrynes other then doing a big experiment. The movie flushed out Golan better and gave him more motive then the book did. Left a lot undone. I wish it could have wrapped up a bit better.

Content – there is some language throughout, not overwhelming though, but enough to be annoying. Also the hollows are pretty scary kill/hurt several characters. Then you have a teen romance.

Quotes –

“It was my grandfather’s island. Looming and bleak, folded in mist, guarded by a million screeching birds, it looked like some ancient fortress constructed by giants.” (p. 70).

A patchwork of sheep-speckled fields spread across hills that rose away to meet a high ridge, where a wall of clouds stood like a cotton parapet” (p. 71).

“Trees burst forth from broken windows and skins of scabrous vine gnawed at the walls like anti-bodies attacking a virus – as if nature itself had waged war against it” (p. 83)

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was” (p. 351).

Conclusion –

Overall, I preferred the movie, but the book has some good points as well. Love the author’s writing style. Certain characters were fleshed out, but the all the children at the home, kind of got put on the back burner. We don’t really get to know them that well. I did get hooked though and struggled setting this one down. 😉

Up next – I’m thinking about re-reading The Hobbit. Feel in the mood to go visit Middle-Earth!

How about you? How has your December gone? Have you read Miss Peregrine? What are your thoughts, book vs. movie?

Anna