Review for Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Genre – Historical fiction, YA

Rating – PG-13 for maritime disaster and violence

Synopsis –

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

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

My thoughts –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion –

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

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

Anna

Review for The Girl who Said Goodbye

The Girl who Said Goodbye by Heather Allen

Genre – A Memoir

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

Synopsis –

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

My Thoughts –

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

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

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

Language – None

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

Violence –

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

Other –

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

Conclusion –

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

Anna

2019 in Review

Whew! This was quite the year! II almost finished my list, just missed 1 book , more like half a book. In total I read 70 books! Which for me is a lot! There were many great books, but I am going to narrow it down to my top 5 books for 2019. I’ll start with 5 and work my way up to #1. Here we go!

#5 Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I picked this up at the library one day and was pleased that it turned out so well. I know the cover is odd looking, but the story itself is quite good. Basically a modern, science fiction retelling of Cinderella. Has robots, a killer plague, and a lost lunar princess. What not to like!

Rating – PG-13 for violence

#4 The Oath by Frank Peretti

This book sucked me in and I thought about several days after I had finished it. A “What if sin were a dragon?” tale. Once the plot gets going, this is a hard book to put down.

Rating – PG-13 for gore and violence

#3 The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

This book popped up on radar last February and I figured I should take the plunge. So glad I did. This is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings. Sort of reads like a history book.

Rating – PG-13 honestly not much questionable content, but I think anyone under 13 would be awfully bored.

#2 Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart

Love that cover!! Anyway, this book gives us yet, another adventure with the Mysterious Benedict Society. The team has aged somewhat and now the Ten Men are on lose.

Rating – PG mild peril

Take a guess at what book took the #1 position??

You guessed it!!

#1 The Forsaken Continent by Wayne Thomas Batson

This is the third book in the Myridian Constellation series. I waited for this book for such a long time!! It definitely paid off!! It tells the saga of Stormgarden family after the Bloody Red Night when Morlan came back for revenge.

Rating- PG-13 for evil creatures and Lord of the Rings like battles

What books have you read this year? Any top favorites?

So that is it folks!! I hope every one has a wonderful New Year!!

Anna

Review for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages

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

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, science fiction

Rating – PG for mild peril

Series – 5th book in The Mysterious Benedict Society

Synopsis –

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

My Thoughts –

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

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

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

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

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

Language – None

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

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

Summery –

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

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

Anna

Review for Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

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

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Genre – Middle-grade, fantasy, mystery

Rating – PG for fantasy violence

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

Synopsis –

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

My thoughts –

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

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

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

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

Language – None

Innuendo – None

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

Conclusion –

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

Quick Reviews – 5 Books I read

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

The Story People by Heather Kaufman

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

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

Rating – PG for some mild innuendo

Corus the Champion Lengends of Karac Tor by D. Briggs

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

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

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

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

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

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

Rating – PG for fantasy violence

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

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

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

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

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

Rating – PG for heavy themes and mild language

Haatchi and Little B by Wendy Holden

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

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

Rating – G

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

Anna

Review for The Book of Names

The book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs

Genre – Fantasy, Young Adult, Christian fiction

Series – Book one

Rating – PG – Peril and fantasy violence

Synopsis –

This is the tale of four brothers who recently moved after their mom passed away. Hadyn, the oldest, is struggling to return to normal. All he wants to do is to return to the good old days. One day Hadyn and his brother Ewan find scrolls that suddenly appear in their briar patch. This leads them on a journey of self-discovery.

My Thoughts –

This book was a nice surprise! In my quest to find new books, I sometimes forgot what is on my list as the list is made up of sticky notes. So, when I started reading, it was a nice surprise that the setting starts off in modern times. I really liked this section of the book as it made me think of Stephan Lawhead’s books. Don’t get me wrong, the fantasy world Briggs created was had its own merits, but I almost wanted just a story set in modern times.

Alright, let’s talk characters. There were two characters that stood out to me. First, Hadyn. I connected with him on several levels because we are both the oldest sibling, and have similar characteristics. Anyway several characters have a decent character arc which was great. I liked Sorge and his mysterious past. He was a good mentor for the brothers by providing them with history and wisdom. I wanted more of Flogg! We did not learn about him except that he is a gnome. I am hoping that in future books, we will get more of him. Maybe a visit to his homeland? A few twists surprised me, but the whole evil witch who works for the evil Devourer felt flat.

The book was written to the author’s sons after their mother died which gave it a feeling of authenticity, but towards the end, it got a wee bit repetitive. I am hoping that the next book will come delve deeper. The ending was a wee bit predictable, but there was some great themes throughout the book about family, self-discovery, and love. There was a Jesus like character called Aion and a Satan like character called the Devourer. We see there are followers of Aion in three branches each doing a different task. There are certain gifts that given from Aion and these can be a variety of things.

Violence –

Honestly, there was not much violence. There were a few times where the characters were in peril and then the final battle at the end. The evil witch would sit in her tower and throw mice into a pot of blood. She controls a bunch of teens by her power. She also uses magic spells and incantations, but it is shown to be evil.

In the final battle, there is some fighting, but mostly characters only get cuts bruises. Nemasia releases these evil flying spirits called Watchers and they can terrorize people. The evil witch falls into a crack in the earth and vanishes.

Language – A few uses of the word hel, but used as a fictional location

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

This was a great start to a fantasy series and had a good mix of humor, theology, and action. Personally, I would say that this book is aimed at a younger audience maybe teen and young adult. There were some good take aways like considering what role we play in fighting evil, not giving up hope, and overcoming grief. I think as the series progresses it will develop sea legs and become an epic fantasy saga.

Note – I read the second book in the series, and it starts to really develop our characters.

Cannot wait to hear from you all!

Anna

Review for The Oath

The Oath by Frank Peretti

Genre – Thriller, dragons, Christian fiction

Standalone

Rating – PG-13 for violence

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

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

My thoughts –

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

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

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

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

Violence –

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

Language –

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

Innuendo –

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

Conclusion –

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

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

Anna

Review for The Tale of Hill Top Farm

The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Cozy British Mystery

Age Range – Anyone

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

Synopsis –

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

My Thoughts –

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

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

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

Negative content –

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

Conclusion –

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

I cannot wait to hear your thoughts!!

Anna

Review for Murder on the Flying Scotsman

Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn

Genre – Mystery, 1930’s England

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

Series – Fourth in the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries

Summery –

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

My Thoughts –

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

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

Negative Content

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

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

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

Conclusion –

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

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

Anna