Looking back on 2022

Hello my lovely friends!

I’m back for a bit at least. My year has been jam packed. So many changes happened this year. Mostly I want to look back on my reading. Not surprisingly my total amount of books plummeted with all my busyness My total was only * drum-roll please * 43. With two DNF’s.

Stranger Things Steve GIF by NETFLIX

Each of these books stuck out to me as having relatable characters and left me wanting more. This year sort of became my year for YA. I didn’t really plan this, but I had a blast anyway. I listened through the Hunger Games series as well as Harry Potter. Both are unique and I can see why they caused a splash. Also, I read two more Miss Peregrine books, but think I’ll stop the series there as the ending was perfect.

Let’s start with my favorites! 😉

#9 Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico

Honestly, don’t know how I had never heard of this quaint book?? It tells the story of an elderly cleaning lady whose husband died in the war. While cleaning Lady Dant’s house, she stumbles upon a Dior dress. In that moment Mrs. Harris decides then and there she will buy her very own Dior dress. What a journey she has!

Quotes –

“The world in which Mrs. Harris, now approaching the sixties, moved, was one of perpetual mess, slop, and untidiness.”

“For it had not been a dress she had bought so much as an adventure and an experience that would last her to the end of her days.”

#8 The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

This was such an emotional book for me! I absolutely loved the characters! Ponyboy had this rough life and I just wanted to give him a hug. Impressive to me that Hinton started writing this when she was 16.

Ponyboy lives with his two brothers Darry and Soda Pop. They look out for one another, but not always in the best way. They are all apart of the Greaser gang from the East side who have a reputation to uphold. They have been seeking a rumble with the Socs gang from the West side. Before the rumble Ponyboy is attacked which leads to him running for his life.

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”

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

“Stay gold Ponyboy. . . stay gold”

#7 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

To be honest I don’t remember everything that happened in this one. I do know this was Sirius Black’s first appearance as well as Lupin’s. Ah, Lupin. He is one of my favorite characters. He begins teaching Harry some important skills that come in handy. He is a fount of wisdom. We also get a bit of time travel. Yea! The ending of this one, so good! This book was so tight and concise which gets lost in some of the later books.

Quotes –

” I solemnly swear I am up to no good”

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

“What you fear most of all is —fear. Very wise…”

#6 Mirror of Souls by Wayne Batson

I’ve been waiting for this next installment for a while. Anytime something new comes out by Batson, I get super excited. This did not disappoint. It is the 4th book in his Myridian Constellation series. It picks up right where The Forsaken Continent left off.

There are so many characters and plot lines. I’ll just mention a couple. Telwyn Coldhollow is returning from his trek to the forsaken continent only to see his friends in danger yet again. King Lochlan is still on the run from Morlan. He decides to attempt to take back his kingdom from the menace that pervades it. Abbagael Coldhollow misses her husband Alistair and embarks to find him wherever he is, no matter the cost.

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.”

“What is this talk of payment?” Alec asked. “We are all children of the Starmaker. This is what we do for each other. “

Abbagael stared 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.”

# 5 Catch me If you Can by Frank Abagnale

This book came as a recommendation from a friend. Not surprisingly, I had never heard of this book, but the premise sounded intriguing. I’m a fan of White Collar and this is similar in a way.

After his parents get a divorce, Frank Abagnale decides to runaway, and eventually becomes a conman at the age of 19. He goes through a series of invalid jobs from Pan am pilot to pediatrician, and even a university teacher.

Quotes –

“You’ll learn Frank, that when you’re up they’re hundreds of people who’ll claim you as a friend. When you’re down, you’re lucky if one of them will buy you a cup of coffee.”

“The TWA first officer was probably back in the pilot’s lounge by now, telling others TWA crewman he’d just met a Pam Am jerk who flew washing machines.”

#4 Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Well, the mystery woven throughout HBP is amazing. There was a lot happening in this book and I listened to it in a very short amount of time. So, I apologize if I forget details. Dumbledore finally made some smart choices and showed Harry key memories that help explain why Voldemort became the wizard he is now. We also get to see a glimpse of kindness in Snape which felt long overdue. Romantic feelings were sprouting like flowers everywhere. I like Jinny, but I’m not sure how I feel about them together. Harry does make some more mature choices and grows up a bit.

Quotes –

“Once again; Lord Voldemort fails to grasp that there are much more terrible things then physical injury.”

“Voldemort’s mistake, Harry, Voldemort’s mistake. . . Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.”

#3 The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Creel

I really liked this book! It was sweet and charming. Sometimes all you want is a simple story, nothing complex or out of this world. This book fits that very well.

Olivia Dunne is the oldest of her three sisters which has led to come contention at home. Her mom suddenly dies due to cancer and afterwards Olivia becomes pregnant. Her father then arranged a marriage for her which crushes her dreams of becoming an archeologist. At first Olivia is not a fan of the move or her marriage, but slowly she comes to appreciate and develop friends in her small town. There are a few moments where I did get frustrated with her mopiness.

Quotes –
“Not yet silver, the moon reflected the honey gold of the setting sun, lighting her face from continents away.”

“”Sure enough,” he said. “But that’s not why I’m standing here. I wanted to listen better.” I stopped stirring. Then he told me, “You were singing to yourself.”

#2 Boy Tales from Childhood by Ronald Dahl

This was our December pick for our book club. Ronald Dahl wrote an autobiography of his life. Now he even mentions that autobiographies can be boring, so he just wrote about the interesting bits. And indeed Dahl know how to write! I found myself laughing way to hard at his antics as a boy. You can see where he got some of his ideas for his books just based on his childhood. I highly recommend for all ages!

Quotes –

“The sweet ship in Llandaff in the year 1923 was the very center of our lives. To us it was what a bar is to a drunk or a church is to a Bishop. Without it, there would have been little to live for.”

“That was 1924, and taking out a child’s adenoids, and often tonsils as well, without any anesthetic was common practice in those days, I wonder thought what you would think if some doctor did that to you today”

#1 A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Our book club has read a few of Backman’s books and enjoyed them. On a whim, and a need for a new audiobook, I gave Ove a try. It was fantastic!! Who would have thought that a grumpy curmudgeon could be so funny.

Ove has a routine that he sticks too and follows the same pattern everyday. Yet, losing his wife has messed with how structure. It’s Ove’s job to ensure the neighborhood is safe from pesky visitors. He recently was fired from his job, and now Ove sees no point in living. So, he decides to commit suicide. His new neighbors though keep interrupting him.

I love that we see flashbacks to Ove’s life before this. We see his rough childhood and life as an orphan. As well as how he meets his wife. So many touching moments.

There are a few content issues to be aware of for Ove. There is descriptions of his suicide attempts as well as some rough language.

Well, that took longer then I expected! Whew! Hope you enjoyed that! How was 2022 for your reading life? Any favorites? Have you read any of these?

Happy New Year!

Anna

Fall Reading

Well hello again!

I know, I know, I disappeared there for awhile. Once school began up again, I have been busy. I am hoping to spend some more time on here. Have a few post ideas in the works, just need the time to actually do them. 😉 Anyway, Happy Fall!

It’s hard to believe that we are through October already. Mid-September put in the mood for more spooky reading, excited to share some of these with you!

Let’s get started!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J. K. Rowling

Genre – Fantasy

Series – 7th book in the Harry Potter series

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and peril

I finally finished the series! Took me almost a whole year to do it. If I remember right, I started Philosopher’s Stone in January. This has been a great ride and I’ve enjoyed my trip to the Wizarding World.

Rowling really did a good job creating characters who are unique and quirky, but lovable. I think on the whole this concluded each characters stories well. Certain individuals seemed to have matured more then others. However, that epilogue, awe, a hit to the chest. Teared up just a smidge. 😉

I just want to mention a few of my favorite bits:

* Lupin becoming a dad – still is one of my top characters

* Harry saving Malfoy – wish there was a bit more reconciliation there

*Voldemort & Harry in forest

* Battle for Hogworts – so many heroic moments

*Neville and the sword –

* Snape & the stag – Loved that we actually get to see an explanation

I’ve been trying to figure out which book is my favorite. I’ve narrowed it down to a top three – Prisoner of Azkaban, Half-Blood Prince, & Deathly Hollows.

My next book is more in the spooky vein, and I’ve been waiting to read it most of the year.

Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Genre – Gothic, Horror, Mystery

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for kidnapping and violence

A couple years ago I watched the 25th anniversary stage version of the musical. Fell in love with the music! Roughly a year or so ago found out that it was based upon a book. Finally got a chance to read it this past month.

I have to say the book is different than the musical. There are quite a few similarities, but the book gives us more details into the lives of some of the characters.

One big difference is that Leroux focuses more on the mystery of this spectral phantom and the tension it brings. But I found myself struggling to like any of the characters. For me Christine felt more wishy-washy in the book, she cannot make up her mind to tell Raoul about the Angel of Music for fear of Raoul’s life. While Raoul was super impatient and almost clingy regarding Christine.

Honestly, the best character was the Persian. He actually had a bit of backbone and some much needed wisdom for Raoul. The whole torture chamber was well done! Really felt like I was there trapped with them.

Overall this book is more plot driven, than character, which is fine. However, its weaving multiple plot points, some of which are slower then others. Glad I read it, just not my favorite gothic literature.

Quotes –

“And Richard turned a terrible look on Moncharmin, which seem to say: “Give me back the twenty-thousand francs, or I’ll tell the whole story.” Moncharmin understood what he meant, for, with a distracted gesture, he said: “Oh, tell everything and have done with it!”

“A ghost, ” he said, “Who, on the same evening, carries off an opera singer and steals twenty thousand francs is a ghost who must have his hands very full!”

Last, but not least – Dracula

Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Genre – Gothic, Horror

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for spookiness & vampire violence

So, this was our book club pick for October. Before Dracula, I had never read a vampire story. This was new for me. It reminded me at times of Frankenstein which I loved.

OK, so right off the bat, Jonathan Harker’s first section hooked me. I loved the whole mystery surrounding the count’s odd behavior. Harker’s whole journey just to get to the castle was a trip in itself. This whole section was well written, concise, & to the point. Not nail-biting per say, but definitely spooky.

Then his journal stops and we move to Mina. This is where I slowed down and drew me out of the story. Throughout the rest of the book, I never really connected with Mina or Lucy’s segments. Not exactly sure why? Lucy especially, I just didn’t care and was relived when her part ended.

Of all the characters, Van Helsing was my fav. He had the smarts and deduced things that Jonathan, Stewart, and Morris missed. Morris was good as well. Wished Lucy had picked him instead of who she actually chose.

One qualm I have is the whole ending. I was expecting a fight between our heroic party and Dracula and instead it is rather anticlimactic. It was just a bit of letdown.

Quotes –

“Once again. . . Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.”

“No man knows til he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.”

“I am longing to be with you and by the sea, where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air.”

Anyway Dracula is worth a read, and is a classic for a reason.

Up Next – I’m still working on my reread of The Silmarillion. Eek, I’ve taken way to long with this. Its been a back burner book. I read a chapter then stop, so much detail that its better in smaller bits.

How is your fall going? Read anything spooky? Have you heard of these? What are your thoughts?

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

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

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

Review for 438 Days

Hello again, last you all heard I had reread The Mysterious Benedict Society. Well I went on to reread the second book in the MBS series, which was lovely and a nice break from all long and more tedious books I embarked upon. 🙂 After which one of the ladies in my book club recommended a survival book which fit my mood, particularly with all this cold weather we are having. It was a fascinating read; I truly love hearing how people survive rough conditions.

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea

438 Days An Extraordinary True Story of Survival At Sea

by Jonathan Franklin

Genre – Nonfiction, Survival

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for infrequent language and drug use

Synopsis –

For most of his life Alvarenga lives on the sea. After leaving El Salvador to come to Mexico, he finds a place there. He works hard as a shark fisherman and usually brings in quite the catch. In November Alvarenga and a novice fisherman named Cordoba head out to hit a particular spot where the fish are biting. While there a storm comes in and wreaks havoc on their expedition. They try to head back to shore, but loss their anchor and have engine trouble. This is a true story of how these men fight to survive in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

My Thoughts –

Throughout most of this book, I became enthralled with Alvarenga’s journey. I’d never heard his story before and became sucked into the world of fishing. The whole fishing industry situation in Mexico was sad. I mean these fisherman get paid pittance compared to what the actual fish cost.

In all honestly, I probably would not have survived what he went through. I am a picky eater and would not have been able to eat birds. I mean he ate the whole bird bones, feathers and all. Also, shark skin. He literally did whatever he could and ate anything that came his way. It boggles my mind that he spent that year on just a tiny boat with no covering. With most of his time being spent in an icebox!! It would be interesting to see where Alvarenga is at today and if he ever found help for his back pain.

Both Alvarenga and Cordoba sound like interesting men. Kinda surprised how big the drug industry was even for poor fisherman. I could connect with Cordoba’s fear and anxiety during the first storm. Where would that put your state of mind? Being overtaken by a fierce almost hurricane and unable to reach the shore only 20 miles away.

To me there is no doubt in my mind that the Lord was watching over Alvarenga and brought him through this horrible situation. Our bodies are such miraculous things; it truly gives credit to our Creator. It was neat to see Alvarenga turn at least to believing the possibility that there was God out there. I would imagine it would be easy to blame God for this horrible situation and become bitter, but instead the opposite happened and this man softened to the truth.

Content – There is infrequent swearing throughout as well mentions of drug use. We also are told that Alvarenga was quite the ladies man, often dating more then one women. He had a daughter our to wedlock who plays a role in the book as well

Conclusion –

I got to say this truly was an incredible story. The first chapter or so dragged a bit as they gave a lot of back story. However, it picks up and takes you on a wild ride through the Doldrums and the Pacific Ocean. What’s crazy is that this took place only a few years ago. It’s hard to picture places so desolate where there is not a single soul. I’d highly recommend this if you enjoy survival stories!!

Up next – I’m reading Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. I saw the movie and really loved it so am giving the book a try.

Over to you all! What’s your favorite survival book/movie? Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

Review for Lincoln on the Verge

Well folks, I know its been awhile since I have popped on here. Now that the holidays are upon us I am hoping to do more posts. This book was chosen by my book club for our nonfiction pick of the month. I’d never heard of it before reading it. Typically, I steer clear of nonfiction as it just doesn’t grab me. I prefer to escape through fiction and enjoy characters growth inside new worlds. Now, I set a goal for myself that I’d finish this before Thanksgiving. I really didn’t want a weighty book for Thanksgiving break. I can say I accomplished this goal!!

Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington

Lincoln on the Verge Thirteen Days to Washington

by Ted Widmer

Genre – Nonfiction, Historical

Series – No

Rating – PG for mild discussions of slavery and mentions of assassination

Synopsis –

Basically this covers the 13 days Lincoln traveled from Springfield to Washington before his inauguration. We see a bit about his election and just how close the race was. Widmer also discusses how dangerous these few days were for the president-elect. He ends with the impact that Lincoln’s death had on uniting the American people.

My Thoughts –

I’ll be honest. The start of the book was dull and felt like the author had just assembled facts together related to one individual’s election. After the first chapter which introduces us to Lincoln’s plan to meander across America, the author then launches into a whole chapter devoted to railroads and how travel became more accessible to the people. However, one the journey began it did get a bit more interesting. I will say that I learned quite a bit about Lincoln, particularly related to the multiple assassination attempts throughout his journey.

The focus of the book is Lincoln. We don’t really see much of his family life. Widmer uses many quotes from John Hay, who was Lincoln’s assistant secretary. Hay gives inside to Lincoln’s behavior. I was surprised at how melancholy Lincoln seemed throughout his journey to Washington. It it mentioned several times that Lincoln had a feeling that he’d never be back to his home in Springfield. Especially near the end of his life, the author indicates, “That night, as he headed to the theater, he said “good-bye” to Crook instead of the usual “good-night.” (Widmer p. 450). I cannot imagine the weight of being president entails.

This book does portray just how committed Lincoln was to the cause of freedom and following the founding fathers vision for this new country. Throughout the 13 days that Lincoln traveled, he willingly put himself in harms way. He shook thousands of hands and after one evening, his hands became painful. Even just by visiting these states on his path to Washington, Lincoln raised morale and united a nation on the brink of collapse. At one point Lincoln could barely speak and yet he still gave a speech.

Now, the author doesn’t mention it, but to me it felt that the Lord played a big part in protection Lincoln. He had many close calls even from his own fans. In one instance a cannonball hit the train and shattered a window close to the Lincoln family. Throughout his travels, Lincoln was up close and personal with crowds of people and very readily someone could have taken a shot at him. Without Lincoln, who knows where our country would be today. My opinion of Lincoln has definitely increased.

I have one complaint that bugged me quite a bit. Widmer repeated himself a lot. He truly nailed down how homely and tall Lincoln was. It got very repetitive! Same with the different cities Lincoln visited. The author rehashed the same thoughts – big crowds, speeches, late nights, and how tired Lincoln was throughout it all. I get the point. Being a president is tiresome and hard work, I just wish that the author could have written it a different way.

Conclusion –

Lincoln on the Verge is long and at times tedious. However, it is very informative about this small section of Lincoln’s life. I learned more then I had anticipated I would. If you enjoy American history or look up to Abraham Lincoln, this gives an interesting look at this famous man’s travel to become president.

Up next – I’m rereading The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. After all these long books recently, I need something lighthearted! 😉

How about you? What books are you reading this November? Do you enjoy history?

Anna

Review for The Way of Kings

Well folks, after finishing the Way of Kings, I had a lot of thoughts and cannot wait to share them. Just an FYI, this was the first Sanderson book that I’ve read. His name has popped up a few times around the blogosphere, but honestly, I don’t remember why I wanted to read this in the first place. Oh, well!

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Genre – Fantasy

Series – 1st in The Stormlight Archive

Rating – PG-13 for battles, death, & murder

Synopsis –

The world of Roshar is under attack and has been for many years. But when the Knights Radiants disappear leaving behind their Shardblades, the peoples across Roshar are left to bicker and fight amongst themselves over the mighty swords. Leaving an opening for evil to creep in. Kaladin is a slave who had been a leader in Amaram’s army. After performing a good deed, he is sold into slavery. Destitute and abandoned by the man he thought was honorable, turns Kaladin into a bitter and depressed man. Yet, there is a slim hope that he might one day be able to escape. Meanwhile the Brightlord Dalinar Kholin, the right-hand man to the king, is thinking of doing the unthinkable, uniting Alethkar and ending the war with the Parshendi.

My Thoughts –

Whew, let me just say, The Way of Kings is long and very different from what I had anticipated. if that synopsis wasn’t confusing enough, the first part of the book, jumps around so much that I got lost. Thankfully, after the first 100 pages or so, we got to rotate between two characters which helped immensely. I feel like Sanderson could have rewritten the the prologues as they gave me more questions then answers. They didn’t connect well with the rest of the book, except a little bit towards the end. I did get frustrated at times that each chapter would shift between characters. I really just wanted to stick to Kaladin’s story line.

Now, I will say Sanderson does a decent job word building. He has created a complex system with everything from giant snails to a religion. In his world the people lighteyes are in control or the ones who can be commanders and kings. The darkeyes serve them. He also created an interesting weapon – the Shardblade which is different then any sword as it cannot cut a living being, but burns them from the inside out.

There are two characters that held my attention and who I really liked! Kaladin and Dalinar grew as characters and became men of leadership which was super cool to see. Of the two, Kaladin’s story drew me in from his first segment.

Playing Star Wars GIF by MOODMAN

The way he unites Bridge Four from men literally sent to die to trained spear-men was fantastic!! They are like a big family! Also, Rock’s stew. 🙂

Also, Syl, the spren, was a neat friend who kinda woke up Kaladin to the truth. I couldn’t help smiling when Teft or Rock started coming out of their shell and pledged their loyalty to Kaladin. Then their whole rescue mission! Yeah, that is what I like to see in a fantasy novel. It took me a while to like Dalinar, but he held staunchly to his beliefs and truly wanted to do what was right. His visions were interesting, but didn’t like the explanation for them. However, Sanderson, did a marvelous job portraying leadership and the pitfalls and trials going with it.

Shallan was kinda boring. Very similar to all the other female fantasy tropes, untrained, is seeking a secret to save her family, which leads her to major self-discovery moment. To me she didn’t really develop during her stay with Jasnah. Szeth was an odd character, I felt pity for him and yet committed atrocities. I don’t know. Sanderson let this character unfinished in my opinion. I’m also not sure what to make of the Parshendi. Are they good? Does this war get dragged out across multiple novels?

The use of Stormlight was unique and cool. Especially as it manifested itself in Kaladin’s life. The way he is able to draw in light and increase speed or draw objects toward himself – very Thor like. I would love to see Kaladin and Szeth have a showdown and I am pretty sure that it will happen possibly in book 2.

Quotes:

“The things others have always seem better than what you have,” his mother said.” (P. 363).

“A life is priceless,” he said immediately, quoting his father. Dalinar smiled, wrinkle lines extending from the corners of his eyes. “Coincidentally, that is the exact value of a Shardblade. So today you and your men sacrificed to buy me twenty-six hundred priceless lives. And all I had to repay you with was a single priceless sword” (p. 957).

“Teft rolled his sphere between his fingers again, holding it up and staring into the depths. “Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination” (p. 831)

“It was amazing. Months ago, Moash – along with the others – had eagerly placed the new or the weak at the front of the bridge crew to catch arrows. Now to a man, they volunteered for the most dangerous jobs” (p. 880).

Content- Throughout there are a few choice words. It is insinuated that Navani never loved Gavilar, her now deceased husband. Lots and lots of battles. I do feel like Sanderson leans toward too many descriptive battles. Many innocent people die, especially whenever Szeth enters the scene.

Conclusion – I really did like The Way of Kings! So, many unique elements and let’s be honest without Kaladin, I probably wouldn’t have finished. He added so much! There were some stuff that didn’t quite sit well, particularly Vorinism.

Have you read The Way of Kings? Should I continue this series? Who is your favorite character?

Look forward to hearing from you!

Anna

Review for Dune

Dune (Dune, #1)

Dune by Frank Herbert

Genre – Science Fiction, Adventure, Political

Series – 1st in the Dune series

Rating – PG-13 for skirmishes, battles, and betrayal

Well folks, I’ve finished Dune a few days ago and it has been rolling around in my head. I picked this up at the library, sort of spur of the moment situation; I saw it sitting on the shelf and recalled that they were making a movie out of it. So I figured I’d give it a shot. This year has been my sci-fi year, am I right??

I went into it thinking it was going to be Tolkienesque with lots of descriptions and perhaps some dry bits. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Herbert was able to draw me into the story within a few chapters. Let me just say, Herbert’s word building is incredible. He masterfully creates a world that is different from our own, but also relatable. Arrakis sounds awful, but also has a natural beauty that I didn’t appreciate at first. You are drawn into his universe and yet, he doesn’t overwhelm you with ton of details at the start. He slowly builds the story.

Now, I’m torn about the characters. The characters I was drawn to were more minor, except for Paul. Paul started out really interesting with his Bene Gesserit training and visions of the future. I also liked that he was wrong on occasion despite all his wisdom. But later on once he realized he was Muad’dib he become less connectable. And I didn’t like him as much. He was a brilliant military strategist and I liked his friendship with Stilgar! In fact Stilgar was one of my favorite characters. He was a noble leader and cared for his people.

I also liked Duke Leto and Jessica to an extent. They made an interesting couple. The Emperor put him in tight position and he did the best he could. It would be interesting to see if Leto knew he would be betrayed? Chani was ok, didn’t really connect with her. Duncan Idaho went up in my opinion with his sacrifice. Wish he was in it a bit more.

Plot-wise, the best part for me was the survival in the desert. I love survival stories and this was neat to see how they conserved water. Also, the worms, loved how the Freman rode them. One of the reasons why I love sci-fi is seeing the creatures and worlds the authors create.

The main concern I had was the whole new age thing the Bene Gesserit taught. Very force like from Star Wars. I mean I get when you create a world, you sometimes create new religions, but it messed so many together, it got very convoluted in my opinion. Also, wasn’t a fan of the joined consciousnesses that Jessica did with the Reverend Mother. It just left a bad taste in my mouth. Coming from a Christian background, I don’t agree with many of the author’s ideas. Especially the stuff about being one with the world. I believe we are only here on this world for a little while and our job is to glorify the Creator.

Content – Language is pretty minimal, only a few mild choice words. Violence is pretty typical of a fantasy movie, we do see several characters poisoned. Several die by knife wounds. There are references to concubines. Mostly used as statement of fact, we don’t get details thankfully.

Conclusion –

How to sum it all up? Its an interesting novel, with some political intrigue as well as a journey. I can see how this classic has influenced other sci-fi movies. I liked it a lot more then I had thought I would. Stayed engaged and interested in the plot to finish. I am curious to see what they do with the movie.

So, have any of you read Dune? What were your thoughts?

Up Next – I’m rereading The Book Thief!

Anna