End of Summer Books

Hello friends!

I hope you all have enjoyed your summer! This year it felt like it especially went by fast. I love summer! The swimming, picnics, campfires, walks, ice cream, and of course 4th of July! I did a fair amount of reading as well! My favorite summer read has been Project Hail Mary which I’ve previously talked about.

Today, I wanted to talk about two books I’ve recently finished that I enjoyed, but didn’t quite cut it for me. They fell a little short, but there are some good things in each. Also, both are somewhat summery which fits.

Season 8 Running GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Let’s get started shall we!

This Won’t End Well has an interesting premise. Annie quits her job after an incident with a coworker made her realize the truth about him. Right after this her fiance, Jon, suddenly leaves for France only telling her on the way to the airport. For good measure we have a mysterious neighbor who does some odd things which cause Annie to investigate. Throughout the book Annie makes several discoveries about herself and realizes she needs to make changes.

I liked several things in this novel. First, Annie cares very much about her mom and currently lives with her due to her mom’s health problems. There is a touching moment at the end where both Annie and her mom tell each other the truth. I also loved Harper the next door neighbor. I found her character hilarious and quirky. Naming her dog, dog! 😉 Also, have to give a shout out to Viola, the next door neighbor, who spoke some much needed wisdom Annie.

Sadly, there were several times when Annie really got on nerves. Her indecision and lies to the neighbor. Also, Jon was no better. Like why would you leave 4 months before your wedding?? Plus, wanting no communication with your fiance? Glad they split amicable though. Now I did like Moe at first, but then later on when we found out why he was spying on Annie, he went way down in my estimation. Even at the end, I kinda wish the author would have left Annie single.

The plot was a bit predictable at times, I mean most Rom-coms are, but the author threw a few surprises in. The main thing that kept me reading, was the whole who Harper was. Her and Annie’s friendship was fun to read. Also, the Moe the private investigator was different and I didn’t see that coming.

As far as summer reading goes, This Won’t End Well was light and breezy. Had some cute moments, but nothing deep. Good book for the beach!

Now on to Ember’s End!

Excited Season 4 GIF by Friends

I discovered the Ember series several years ago and liked how Smith created a world around rabbits. For middle-grade fiction, he packs some good themes into his writing: Perseverance, Forgiveness, Family, & Loyalty to name a few.

This latest and last book in the series came out last year. For some reason I didn’t have an interest in reading it for the longest time. Kinda put it on the back burner. But, a few weeks ago, I was looking in the MG section at the library and saw it sitting there and knew I should go for it. Cannot leave Heather and Smalls stuck in a pit. 😉

Overall, Ember’s End was a decent conclusion to the series! Our characters have matured and changed throughout the 4 books which I appreciated. We see many heroic acts of bravery in front of certain doom. We also get to see Heather and Smalls romance bloom, while Picket become quite a leader. There were several rousing speeches before a battle that were inspiring.

Yet, it felt a wee bit off to me. Maybe it was all the battles which took up a good chunk of the book. I’m not sure. This last book in particular felt very predictable. I saw the ending from a long way off. *Spoiler Alert** I almost wish Heather and Smalls would have died in the tunnel. It would have made their victory so much sweeter. *End of Spoiler **

The plot was a bit slower then some of the previous books, part of this I think was due to the big battle sequences. We see the rabbits parry and thrust quite a bit which slows the pacing. I mean we needed a big battle to defeat the birds, but maybe could have been smoother.

I do have to say I loved the addition of a dragon. Dragons seem to be in a lot of fantasy, but Smith did something a bit different with them that I really liked. That whole section was one of my favorite parts!

Ember’s End finished Heather, Picket, and Smalls’ story in beautiful way despite some bits I disliked. If you know someone who is reads MG or enjoy MG fiction yourself, this book is a good reminder to not give up when the going gets rough. Very fitting for our times.

Up Next – I’m working on Dune by Frank Herbert. Almost half-way though. 🙂

So, have you had a good summer? Do you have a favorite summer book? Have you read either of these two books? Tell me below!

Anna

3 Books I’ve Recently Finished

Hello Blogger chums!!

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, however, I finished three odd, quirky, and a little bit different books that I want to discuss. I liked two of these and the last one I struggled to really enjoy.

So let’s talk books!

First, Arthur by Stephan Lawhead

Arthur by Stephen Lawhead

Genre – Fantasy, Historical & Christian Fiction

Series – Book 3 in The Pendragon Cycle

Rating – PG-13 for War

Synopsis –

Using three different characters – Pelleas, Bedwyr, & Aneirin, we get a glimpse into who Arthur was and how he ruled his kingdom. We start with Arthur as a lad of 13 who is eager to earn honor. He is the rightful king of Britain, but the people do not acknowledge him and bicker amongst themselves. With the help of Merlin, Arthur begins to unite the land and fight for freedom.

My thoughts –

I’ve been a fan of Lawhead’s for quite some time. He has a way of crafting characters that leap off the page. We see flawed heroes who struggle with inner demons, but when push comes to shove they stand for truth and righteousness. In previous posts I’ve talked about how I love the Arthurian legend and this series has done a great job taking the characters we know and love and placing them in a totally different environment with a fresh perspective.

Of the three characters we hear from, Bedwyr was my favorite. He is the war hero who fights alongside Arthur during their many battles against Picti, Irish and other barbarians. I didn’t really care for Pelleas as we never really got to know him as a person. He was always off to the side helping Merlin on his adventures. Aneirin did grow on me, but I just didn’t click with him. Now I really loved the portrayal of Arthur and Merlin’s friendship. Merlin is more of a mentor, but also a close friend to Arthur. We also had Gwenhwyvar who is an Irish princess that marries Arthur. It was nice to see her more as a warrior maiden as opposed to her and the whole Lancelot thing.

A neat aspect that Lawhead throws in is the Christendom of Britain. We get to see how the faith spreads across all of Britain. Instead of being a magician, Merlin is more of a prophet who is given visions. He is staunch advocate for following Jesu and instructs Arthur in the Lord.

Quotes

“I left him staring into the red-gold embers, searching the myriad paths of the Otherworld for that which would bring him wisdom and courage” (p. 26).

Myrddin gave a bitter laugh and raised a hand to his eyes. “I was blind before, but now I see quite clearly; My Lord is all-sufficient to his own defense. He did not need my help. It is he who saves and protects, not me, never Myrddin” (p. 222).

“Buffeted by wind and battle roar, we stood to the barbarian host and our swords ran red” (p. 306).

While Arthur is a bit slower with more battles then Merlin was, I liked it a lot! You can see my thoughts on Merlin here –Review for Merlin. Now if you aren’t a huge battle fan, this might not be the book for you. There are many technical battles with a fair bit of violence. It is an interesting read though and if you like the Arthurian legend, I’d highly recommend it.

Content – Really, mostly violence. We hear about how battlefields run red with blood. Many characters are killed in battle or mortally wounded. Arthur cuts off heads of certain barbarians. There is one scene with Nimue or Morgian tries to seduce Pelleas. He senses something is not right and resists her.

Moving on Where’d You Go Bernadette?

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Genre – Travel, Family, Mother daughter relationship

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for brief use of strong language and mention of an affair

Synopsis –

Bee’s parents had told her that if she got straight A’s in 8th grade, they’d grant her a wish. All Bee wants is a family trip to Antarctica. Her mom Bernadette freaks out at hearing this. Bernadette hates people and stays home as much as possible. However her and her husband, Elgie agree to take Bee to Antarctica. In order to prepare, Bernadette has her virtual assistant take care of everything from ordering supplies to getting an anti-nausea medication. Things start to derail when Bernadette disappears during an intervention. Where did she go?

My thoughts –

This is an epistolary novel told from Bee’s perspective, but also other characters as well. Bee is combining emails from her mom and putting them together to figure out where her mom went. It’s different odd and quirky all at the same time. I’m not a huge fan epistolary books, as most of the time, I find it hard to connect with the characters. However, I found myself rooting for Bernadette and really liking her relationship with her daughter.

I liked that we got to see the character’s flaws. Bernadette isn’t perfect, she argues with school moms and erects a sign prohibiting trespassing on her property. Bee struggles with her dad and they get into a pretty big fight. Elgie and Bernadette’s marriage is in a rough patch and to compensate that Elgie works more and more. All of this to say, Semple writes some very real characters. I don’t agree with some of the choices they make, but we are all sinners in need of grace. That stands out to me in this book.

There were several sections that dragged on and I had to keep pushing myself through. One part looks back at Bernadette’s life when she was an architect and we see all the hard work she put into 2 homes, one that was destroyed. This began her dislike of people and her escape from California. However, I really liked the end!! I brought things together and made me very happy!

Quotes

“The only way to get to Antarctica is by cruise ship. Even the smallest one has 150 passengers, which translates into me being trapped with 149 other people who will annoy the . . . out of me” (p. 10).

“Not a terrible thing to be getting out of the house while this infernal machine with spikes, telescoping arms and vicious rotors is chewing up my hillside” (p. 55).

Content – Language is used infrequently throughout, with several uses of strong language. Also, Elgie has an affair with his assistant. Bernadette figures it out, but wants to stay together and Elgie drops everything to find his wife.

Lastly, Crossing to Safety

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Genre – Marriage, Friendships

Series – No

Rating – PG

Synopsis –

Hmm, how to give this book a summary. Well, its a story of two families. Larry is looking back at his life and friendship with the Sid and Charity Lang, so we get alternating chapters of his life now vs their younger years. Larry and Sally Morgan have just moved for Larry’s job as an English professor at a university. They are dirt poor and not a friend for miles. They are newlyweds to boot. After a chance meeting with the Lang’s at a dinner party, the Morgan’s and Lang’s become fast friends. We see their friendship blossom throughout the years.

My Thoughts –

I honestly don’t remember how I found this book, but its been on my list to read for while now. While I was sick, this happened to be the book I worked my way though. Cannot say I really loved this one. Its a slow moving story, definitely focused on the characters and their lives. We see them go through losing a job, writing a book, and facing illness. It an intimate look at marriage and friendship and how they impact each other.

Of the characters, I liked Sally the best. She is a patient soul who endures much and remains content. Her friendship with Charity is sweet and these two women help each other through a lot. Charity is a very strong independent women who is very much in charge of the household with Sid just along for the ride. We see this impact their marriage. I liked Sid and there were times when I wanted him to stand up to Charity.

Wagner has very poetical style of writing. He describes the scenery constantly, some of it is very beautiful, but after a while, I kept thinking, ok, let’s move on. He does make you want to travel back in time to the 30’s and just take a walk in the woods or have a picnic like the Lang’s.

I have to say though, I absolutely hated the ending!! It left a very sour taste in my mouth. I kept saying, Why??? After all they have been through, that how you want to die?

I’ll leave you with a good quote

“Dew has soaked everything. I could wash my hands in the ferns, and when I pick a leaf off a maple branch I get a shower on my head and shoulders” (p. 5).

Conclusion –

For some reason, these three books keep popping up in my mind. They are each unique and they linger, making you think about them. By far, Arthur is my favorite of the three! We see a side of the Arthurian legend that we don’t normally get to see. There were several times in Where’d You Go Bernadette? that I laughed out loud. I appreciate a book that can make me laugh.

Have you ever had a book that sticks with you long after you finish the pages? Have you heard or read any of these books? What have you been reading this summer?

Anna

Up next – I am starting The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow.

Shows I’ve been watching!

happy usa network GIF by Psych

Well, fellow book lovers, I’m back. It been while and I wanted to say hello and pop on. Its time for me rave and rant about some newfound shows I’ve been watching. 😉 Since I’ve been feeling under the weather recently, I figured lets talk about shows!! My reading has slowed down quite a bit sadly, life likes to keep you on your toes. I’ll start with the more family-friendly options.

Anyway, let’s begin!

~The Mysterious Benedict Society

Genre – Mystery, Adventure, Children

Rating PG for peril

Thoughts –

This book series is one I grew up on and loved wholeheartedly. This kids are so dear to my heart and when I heard they were making a series, I was pumped. Still waiting to watch the last episode. Overall I have been impressed with how well they’ve kept the story intact. Have they changed things? Yes! Have I gotten annoyed? Yes! But if you want something that a fun family friendly mystery this is it!

Likes – First, the costumes are fantastic. The creators set the story in the 5o’s which I think fits quite well with the author’s writing style. The colors are vibrant and pop in the murkiness of the emergency. Plus, Kate’s bucket is spot on!! I do wish they had given her blonde hair and ponytail though. The actors for Reynard Muldoon and Sticky Washington fit so well with how I had envisioned them. Mulligan is hilarious and spot on as well. The Institute has manicured paths that must be kept to. Lastly, the Whisperer! If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about.

Dislikes – A big one for me is Mr. Benedict. Yes, they occasionally show is narcolepsy which I love!! But they’ve changed a few aspects about his character which bug me. In the book, Mr. Benedict was the epitome of calmness and courage. Yet, the series likes to show his craziness and worry. Also, they cut off Mr. Curtain having narcolepsy, which makes no sense. I really wanted to see Mr. Curtain speeding though the hallways on his wheelchair. Ah well! Also not sure why they killed off Sticky’s parents??? Like how does that add anything?? A little miffed they didn’t put the poison scene in, that was one of the best parts and the show didn’t even use it.

I’m starting to get too picky!! Moving on!

Loki

Genre – Superheroes, Villain, Time Travel, Adventure

Rating – TV14 for language and violence

Thoughts –

Of the three Marvel series out so far, this one is my favorite!! All three shows are vastly different, but Loki almost doesn’t even feel like Marvel. Do they mess with his whole character development and death, yep, they do. However we get to see a side of Loki that we haven’t seen before, a softer and kinder side. Albeit at the expense of Loki’s other characteristics. We get to see him learn some valuable lessons like trust, sacrifice, and helping others reach a goal.

Likes – Time travel! Yeah, after Lost, I love finding a well done time travel story line. Mobius! Who knew we needed Owen Wilson in the MCU, but he fits his character so well! Jet skiing! 😉 Sylvie is complicated. You dislike her desire to overthrow anything and everything in her path that remotely relates to to the TVA, but as you find out her reasons, she does grow on you. I’m still not sure what I think of the romance!? I mean technically they are both Loki’s so not sure how that will work out, but at the same time, Sylvie and Loki are different.

Dislikes – Not much to dislike here, the show can be odd, complex, and dark at times. At times the pacing felt off and slow. The time keeper at the end left more questions then answers and I cannot understand where he fits in MCU. There was some language, but I don’t remember anything blatant.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Genre – Cops, Humor, Drama

Rating – TV14 for crude jokes, language, & innuendo

Thoughts –

I’ve seen this show pop up a lot and several people I know have compared to Psych and Parks & Rec. Now, I’m only in season 2, but so far I like it. Its goofy and funny. Jake is soo similar to Shawn, except he is an actual cop who loves catching bad guys and cracks jokes as he does it. I don’t agree with some of the things the show stands for, but it makes for a fun show about a precinct that turns into a family. I’ll be honest, this show makes me laugh, hard!

celebrate hell yeah GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Likes – Boyle! Jake! Terry, and of course Rosa! All these characters have their quirks and idiosyncrasies, but they are also lovable. Amy is sweet, but a bit over the top for my taste. I love the way Jake is so willing to step in and help a friend in need, even if its wedding planning. 😉 Terry puts his wife and kids first and truly wants what is best for them. Boyle is clumsy and nerdy, which I relate to, and needs a big hug. Even the captain has wisdom to share with his crew on occasion.

Dislikes

Gina – there are times when I want to like her, and then she does something. I think part of it is her work ethic. I cannot imagine, spending work time to primp and do make-up. Crass Humor – so yeah, its in there, mostly from Jake, Gina, and occasionally Rosa. We hear talk of who is doing who or who likes who quite a bit. Also, the Captain is gay, so they reference his husband. Its sad that this has become the normal on shows these days.

And the final one

Lupin!

Lupin

Genre – Mystery, Heist, Revenge

Rating – MA for strong language and suicide

Thoughts –

A good friend of mine told me about Lupin and absolutely loved it. She compared it to Sherlock, one of my top 5 favorite shows, so I figured why not give it a try. Lupin tells the story of Assane Diop a gentleman thief who is seeking to restore his father’s tarnished name. To do so he must take down a tricky and sneaky man named Hubert Pellegrini.

Likes – Assane is a conflicted hero, he steals from the rich and performs these incredible heists, but he is in turmoil over his dad being framed for a crime he didn’t commit and then dying shortly after. Also, Assane has a best friend named Benjamin who helps him along. I love their interactions and friendship; they’ve know each other since childhood. We also meet Assane’s family- ex-wife Claire and son Raoul. For each heist or con, we see it from how it appears to go down, and then we get the behind-the-scenes glimpse into how Assane pulled them off, which I love!! We do see that despite his vendetta against Pellegrini, Assane loves his family and wants to keep them safe.

Mona Lisa Lupin GIF by NETFLIX

Dislikes – Really, I only have one, the language. The first part has a lot!! You don’t need to use foul language to get your point across constantly. However, by the second part, it was much better. Also, there is violence thrown in, we see an suicide which as well as a kidnapping.

Conclusion –

So these are some of the shows I’ve been watching and enjoying! Almost all of these have characters growing or changing. We see villains save the world by willingly sacrificing something. We see kids being courageous and standing firm in the midst of a wave of danger. And a son who so wants to right the wrongs done in his past, that he loses a bit of himself as he faces his enemy. These are just a few things that stuck out to me!

Now over to you! Have you seen any of these shows? Do you have a favorite character? What have you been watching lately? Can’t wait to hear from you!

Anna

Review for The Help

Well, folks I’m back for another post! I’ve just finished reading The Help which tickled my funny bone. Some books you have to make yourself finish. Thankfully this was not the case. I took it to work to read during nap time and would force myself to stop to get things done.

colin morgan smile GIF by BBC

Let’s get to the good stuff shall we! 😉

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Genre – Historical fiction

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for tense situations and language

Age Range – Older Teen or Adult

Synopsis –

Aibileen’s son died several years ago which leaves a hole in her heart. She has been working as a maid for most of her life. As she cares for Miss Leefolt’s two-year old daughter Mae Mobley, Aibileen becomes attached the the child and tries to impart some wisdom to her. Aibileen’s friend Minny struggles to hold her tongue while working and is seeking a job after being fired. Then there is Eguenia Phelan or Skeeter. Skeeter has two goals in life: become an author and find out what happened to her family maid Constantine. These three women come together to make a difference in their town of Jackson, Mississippi.

My Thoughts –

A while back I saw The Help with my sister. We both enjoyed the movie and quoted it from time to time, but I didn’t really think about reading the book. Then a few months later, I was out garage saling and saw it sitting there on a table. I bought it thinking it would make for a good summer read. And now I finally got around to actually reading it.

We hear the story from three alternating perspectives – Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. At first, I just wanted to hear Aibileen’s story as it was captivating hearing about what her life was like serving a white family. However, as the book moved along, I grew to appreciate all three of the ladies. Minny’s sections were thought provoking as well as humorous. The author did a great job giving each of the ladies a distinctive voice that flowed through the book. These three lives intersect and change. I loved the phone conversations and meeting these three had.

Stockett builds a colorful picture of what Jackson Mississippi would have looked like in the 1960’s. To me it felt like the author had done her research and really brought Jackson to life.

you is kind the help GIF

Personally, Aibileen was my favorite. From working with kids, I appreciated all the work Aibileen went through potty training Mae Mobley. I loved seeing her prayer life as well and how writing her prayers was a way for her to keep practicing what she learned in school. She has a list of people that she prays for every night. Aibileen may be quite, but she has a brave heart and is a good friend to Minny.

Ceila Foote surprised me! I really rooted for her and her husband. Despite her gaudy outfits and ignorance about certain things, she stands up for Minny and has a great love for her husband. The whole bathroom scene was touching.

As a novel, this book makes for a fun read. It isn’t flashy, instead more down to earth. Now, I highly doubt this sort of thing would have ever happened. Especially in the ’60s and I’m no expert. I just cannot see maids actually spilling these stories out to Skeeter.

Quotes –

“Bouncing her on my hip to get the gas moving and it didn’t take two minutes fore Baby Girl stopped her crying, got to smiling up at me like she do.” (p. 1).

“”Miss Celia . . .” I shake my head, not believing I’m already arguing with this lady and I haven’t worked here two minutes.” (p.

“Sure, I dreamed of having football dates, but my real dream was that one day I would write something that people would actually read.” (p.69).

“She hugs me around the neck, say “you’re righter than Miss Taylor. I tear up then. My cup is spilling over.” (p. 461).

Language – There is some swearing throughout as well as some instances of using the Lord’s name in vain.

Violence – We hear how the employer treated Aibileen’s dead son. As well as how a character becomes blind. We see how the police treat the black community during that time. There is also several mentions of domestic violence.

Innuendo – There are rumors about a character having gotten pregnant out of wedlock.

Conclusion –

I really liked this book, liked the characters, the storytelling, and the setting. This book has been out for while now and people seem to either hate or love it. For me I loved it! Much of the book takes places in the summer which was very fitting. It different and at times sad to hear some of the ladies stories, but the author does it in an engaging way. All I can say is that I’d recommend it! 🙂

Up Next – I will be starting Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Cannot wait to hear from you!! What book are you reading? Do you like historical fiction? Have you read/watched The Help? What are your thoughts?

Anna

The Martian VS Project Hail Mary

Hello fellow bloggers!

I know its been awhile since I’ve popped on here, but I am hoping to get back into the groove of posting. Life has picked up the last few months. Got a new job which has been keeping me busy. Has also led to slow down in my reading. After The Scoripo Races, which left a bad taste in my mouth, I stumbled upon some fun science fiction!! I’ve talked about my love for sci-fi in the past; it is one of my go to genres. Some of the ladies in my book club suggested The Martian which I read over vacation. Then I saw the author had a new book about an astronaut with amnesia. Books with amnesia have always fascinated me going back to The Black Stallion Revolts. 😉

So with that long preamble I am going review and lay out my thoughts on these two books Enjoy!!

I’ll start with The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir

Genre – Science fiction, Survival

Series – No

Rating – R- for Strong frequent language

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

After waking up to a low oxygen warning, Mark Watney realizes he is stranded alone on Mars. His crew believes him to be dead and reports back to NASA what had occurred. Watney begins adapting the HAB, a station built by the crew, and conserving food. He was the crew’s botanist and engineer and uses these skills to try to stay alive; doing everything from growing plants, exploding stuff, and retrieving a radioactive heater. Once NASA realizes they’ve made a mistake, they endeavor to save Watney.

My Thoughts –

First, I knew the premise from watching the movie. I love the movie!! Its well done and feels so realistic. Plus, Matt Damon does a great job as Watney! It had been a few years since I had watched it though, so it gave me a chance to come to the book with fresh eyes. I love the originality of the book. Sending a crew to Mars that goes disastrously wrong and getting to see how someone might survive that circumstance. I liked The Martian quite a bit. Watney can be hilarious. He is much more of a wise-crack in the book more so then in the movie.

The majority of the book is told through Watney’s eyes with sections switching to NASA. I preferred the sections with Watney, some of the people at NASA got on my nerves at times.

Pretty much everything goes wrong, and we see Watney try to resolve the crises using lots of math and science. Some of the math stuff was super complicated, but made an intriguing read. It was the sort of book you don’t want to put down so you can see what will happen.

Content – Yeah, there is lots and lots of language here. Watney uses it frequently as well as the crew at NASA. Which was annoying, but the story held my interest so I kept reading. The only other thing was Watney was injured in his side by an antenna which isn’t really discussed much in the book.

Now over to Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Science Fiction, Dystopian

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for occasional language and peril

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis – Grace Ryland wakes up strapped to a bed and unable to remember his own name. A machine feeds him and provides medical attention. Upon escaping the mechanical machine’s arms. He explores his surroundings. Ryland realizes he is on a spaceship hurling through space with two dead astronauts for companions. Ryland has no clue why he is traveling through space. The only clues he has are a few vague memories. How will Ryland survive?

My Thoughts –

I loved that we got to slowly figure out what was going on with Ryland. It was a great tactic! The whole amnesia in space was awesome as well! I know I would totally freak out if I woke up in the middle of another solar system with no clue how I got there. Plus, I got to say Rocky was the best side kick!! I am trying not to give anything away, but he takes the story to another level. Ending kinda reminded me of Interstellar and Ender’s Game. There is some crazy manipulation going on that isn’t quite the level of forcing kids into military training, but its close.

We have some similar elements of a guy stranded and trying to survive, but Ryland is a junior high science teacher. Which I loved!! So he uses Chemistry and Physics at time, but I liked Ryland as a character better then Watney. Plus loved the conversations with Rocky. Which we didn’t really get in The Martian, most of focus was on saving Watney no real character development. And you know I like my character development. The author does a great job giving you a villain to dislike. Some of the sections with Stratt got a little repetitive and boring at times, and I kept saying, “Let’s move on.”

I liked the moral questions Project Hail Mary asks. What would you do if all of humanity rests on your shoulders? How would you handle the stress of being alone?

*Spoiler Alert* – There is a scene with Ryland trying to clean and save Rocky where he uses air pump that had me laughing out loud.

Also the ending guys! Isn’t what I was expecting at all! But I like it, it different and unique. Anybody else see a resemblance to Ender’s Game?

Content – There were a few choice words said, however much cleaner then The Martian. Not much to say here, except some people thought Stratt and Ryland were a thing, which they were not.

Conclusion –

So far I would describe my 2021 book genres as Classics and Science Fiction centered. Both of these books were perfect summer reads! Light and fun! I liked Project Hail Mary a bit more though. It had lots of surprises and things to think about.

That’s all I got for now!

How is your summer going? Have any favorite sci-fi books? Have you read either of these books?

Up Next – I’m finishing up Where the Crawdads Sing then starting The Help

Anna

Review for Les Miserables

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Genre – Historical Fiction, Classic

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for death & some mild innuendo

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

This epic weaves many characters together to tell the story of the underdogs, the oppressed people struggling to survive in France in the early 1800’s. We start with Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who has just been released on parole. No one will offer him work due to his criminal past. Until the Bishop of Digne, Charles Myriel gives him supper and a bed for the night. Jean Valjean attempts to steal from Myriel, but the Bishop offers forgiveness and new life instead. Meanwhile Javert was an officer at the prison where Jean Valjean spent his 19 years and has been looking for him since. Javert holds his job above everything else in life. Then there is Fantine; who is destitute and at her wits end to provide for her daughter Cosette. She pays the Thenardiers to look after Cosette, but they scam Fantine for all she is worth, raising the price beyond what she can bear. Marius is a dreamer at heart. Once he realizes just how noble his father was, he leaves the safety of his grandfather’s house to find his own path in life. Fantine, Jean Valjean, Javert, Marius, & Cosette’s lives weave together to form an unforgettable story of redemption.

My Thoughts –

Well, this book holds a fascinating story. I do love the musical and movie versions of this book, but the book goes deeper and truly fleshes out the characters. At the start of the year, I saw that a blogger had decided to read two classic French books in a year – The Count of Monte Cristo & Les Miserables. I had read an abridged version of Les Miserables years ago and thought this should be the year when I actually read the whole thing. I had some time on my hands so went for it. I’m glad I did!! Was there tediously boring parts? Yes, several that didn’t even affect the story much. Plus Hugo is wordy guy! He loves taking pages to cover something that probably needed only a few sentences. At times it was slow going. Beware if you haven’t read the book or at least know the story, there will be *spoilers ahead.*

My Fair Lady movie review & film summary (1994) | Roger Ebert

Despite all this, I did it! I did it! Mentally singing the My Fair Lady song. 😉

There are so many characters woven throughout the novel, some play minor roles and are only in a small percentage of the book. So, I’m just going to mention some of my favorites. First, Jean Valjean. His developmental arc is amazing!! His story is heartbreaking, and shows how much prison can change a person. His transformation into Monsieur Madeleine is unique in that he does it to keep his vow. He uses the money he made to impact and support the town of Montreuil-sur-mer. He builds workhouses to create jobs. But all it takes is one event to bring that crashing down. I loved that Hugo gave us a look into Valjean’s mind and the turmoil he goes through. Love and forgiveness can truly impact a person’s life.

Next, I was surprised at how much I liked Marius in the book. Hugo gives him a bit more backbone as opposed to some of the movies where he is a bit wishy-washy. His love for Cosette is sweet and innocent. I mean they go a whole year without having said one word to each other and just seeing other from a distance. I got frustrated with his constant endeavor to repay the man who saved his father’s life despite knowing that Thenardier is a scoundrel.

There are two minor characters that I loved as well – Gavroche and Enjolras. Gavroche is the forgotten son of Madame Thenardier. He lives on the street, but has generally happy attitude. Unbeknownst to him, he gives his brothers a safe night . While helping at the barricade, Gavroche sacrifices himself to retrieve ammo. Enjolras on the other hand was rich leader of the ABC society. He sought justice and liberty for the people and yet was aloof and distant from his comrades. I found him intriguing and a bit odd.

Although Hugo can be a long-winded writer, he does know how to draw the reader in to the character’s lives. The sections that revolved around plot I enjoyed quite a bit, it was the parts in between that could drag on forever. I kept wanting Hugo to make his point already. He covers everything from politics to his views on religion, and the sewer system as well as the whole battle of Waterloo.

However I do this is a book that everyone should read once in their lifetime. Jean Valjean’s story alone is worth the 1,200 pages. I teared up at the when when Marius realized just how wrong he was about him. Its an expansive story that covers a lot of territory. It took Hugo more then 20 years to write it and it shows. He gives you quite a bit to think about.

Quotes –

“Jean Valjean, my bother, you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good. I have bought your soul to save it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God” ( p. 11).

“Or so she believes, but it is an error to suppose that we can ever exhaust Fate or reach the end of anything . . . He who knows the answer to this knows all things. He is alone. His name is God” (p. 180).

“And he blesses God for having bestowed on him those two riches which the rich so often lack – work which makes a man free, and thought, which makes him worthy of freedom” ( p. 591).

“And then she wholeheartedly loved her father – that is to say, Jean Valjean- with an innocent, confiding love which mad of him the most charming and desirable of companions” (p. 767).

“and he thanked God from the depths of his heart for having caused him, unworthy wretch that he was, to be so loved by a creature so innocent” (p.769).

Language – Roughly 6 uses of mild language, mostly used by author in his meandering,

Violence – We get a look at what it is like to live in the prison at Toulon and it is a sad how the prisoners were treated. Valjean goes on the run several times running away from Javert. In one instance he is captured by the Thenardiers and beaten. A man seeing Fantine, puts snow down her dress which leads to her becoming very sick. Fantine dies from hearing words that devastate her. Hugo mentions how soldiers died at Waterloo and were piled up. At the barricade, all the combatants die terrible deaths. Eponine dies in an effort to save Marius’s life. Marius believes that Valjean kills Javert, finds out later this is untrue. Javert commits suicide.

Innuendo – So, we get a brief look at Fantine’s life before she moves with Cosette. She falls in love with Tholomyes a poet and she is thinking of marriage. Unfortunately he leaves her in the lurch with a child. Later on, it is mentioned that, as a last resort, Fantine becomes a prostitute to make ends meet. No details, but it is mentioned a several times throughout the book.

Conclusion –

Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals and I’m glad I read this giant book. Although, actually its exactly the same length as The Count of Monte Cristo, go figure. The story takes dark turns at times and it can be depressing just how far some of the characters go. Yet, it is not all dark, there are moments of self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and love. Even Javert begins to realize that people can change. Is it a commitment? Yes, you will have to set aside time to delve into this classic. However it is worth wading into.

Have you heard of Les Mis or read an adaption? Do you have a favorite song from the musical? Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Up Next – It is finally beginning to feel like summer and I’m in the mood for some lighter reading. I am starting The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Anna

Review of The Normal Christian Life

The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

Genre – Nonfiction, Christian

Series – No

Rating – G – Aimed at adults

Synopsis –

Nee walks us through different aspects in a Christian’s life with his focus being on the book of Romans. He dives into just how much the the blood and the Cross did for us as well as going from knowing to reckoning what Christ did. He includes a few stories from his own life to help elucidate certain points. His goal is that we would be wasted for the Lord.

My Thoughts –

It has taken me 5 months to slowly read though this book. Normally I don’t take that long, but I read this one chapter maybe every 2 weeks. To start, a lady at my church began a women’s study through this book back in December. So I began reading it then. Also, I don’t read much nonfiction especially related to Christian living. Many of the modern Christian living books have some interesting beliefs thrown in so I tend to steer clear. Before that I had never even heard of this book, but what a deep and engaging book it turned out it be!

Nee starts off discussing the blood of Christ and why we need it. “We need forgiveness for the sins we have committed, lest we come under judgment; and they are forgiven, not because God overlooks what we have done but because he sees the Blood.” (p. 7). He then goes though Romans 6, 7, & 8 discussing 4 conditions: Knowing, Reckoning, Presenting ourselves to God, & Walking in the Spirit.

Nee really drives home how we died with Christ and I found this section eye opening as I hadn’t really thought of that verse in this way. He references Romans 6:6,8 and delves into how can you know, “whereas you were crucified on the selfsame cross a he, for you were in him when he died. How can you know? You can know for the one sufficient reason that God has said so.” (p.45). He brings it home by discussing the first Adam and how Christ was the last Adam.

Quotes:

“Grace means that God does something for me; law means I do something for God” ( p. 156)

“deliverance from the law implies that he exempts me from doing it, and that in grace he does it himself.” ( p. 156).

“Having at last reached the point of utter despair in ourselves so that we cease even to try, we put our trust in the Lord to manifest his resurrection life in us.” (p. 166).

“As long as we are trying to do anything, he can do nothing. It is because of our trying that we fail and fail and fail. ” (p. 167).

Conclusion –

Nee goes deep into several chapters in Romans as well Genesis. He raised up several points that led me to think about where I stood in my walk with Christ. I loved that he used Scripture to support Scripture. A good book to read slowly, and not rush though. I’d highly recommend it!

Up Next – I started Les Miserables and am about half way though. So will be working on that. Hoping to finish in about a week.

Over to you what have you been reading lately? Have any favorite nonfiction? Have you read this book?

Anna

Review for Beowolf

Beowolf

Author unknown, translated by Seamus Heaney

Genre – Medieval Epic, Fiction, Poem

Series – No

Rating – PG- for battles with monsters

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

We are given a glimpse into the history of two nations: the Geats, & the Danes. The Danish kingdom is under attack by a monster named Grendel. Their plight has been spread far and wide. King Hrothgar cannot protect his people. A noble Geat warrior comes to lend a hand to Hrothgar. Hrothgar welcomes him to Denmark and tells him of monster. His name, Beowolf. He proceeds to battle the beast with his bare hands. Will Beowolf be able to conquer Grendel?

My Thoughts –

I went into this book with a little trepidation as as I knew it was a poem and lengthy. However, Beowolf surprised me! I had heard the gist of the story though a podcast I listen to called Myths & Legends. The book goes into greater detail behind the history of these two nations as well as some back story into the Swedes. You get three epic battles that Beowolf fights.

There are many heroic characters in this tale, although this is definitely more action led with fictional history thrown in. So we don’t really see any character development per say, but we get to know them a little. First, Hrothgar, King of the Danes and son of Halfdane. He is noble and goes from the frying pan into the fire. Hrothgar is an honest man and keeps his word. He is only man still sitting in his mead hall after Grendel’s nightly attacks. Then we get Beowolf who is an extraordinary warrior and above the average man. Yet, humble. I liked Beowolf quite a bit. We spend most of the book following him as he is the hero. Lastly, King Hygelac, King of the Geats. He is a bit more reserved. He didn’t send Beowolf and actually told him not to go assist the Danes. I didn’t really care for him, but he wasn’t really a bad character.

The plot revolves around the three fights: Grendel, His mother, and the dragon. Lots of fairy tales and legends revolve around sets of threes. Of the three fights, I personally found the fight with Grendel’s mom the most interesting.

confused where are we GIF

Although really, how could a person swim underwater for half a day?? It just seemed a little absurd to me!

The dragon fight was cool too. Very Tolkienesque. I mean Tolkien did do a translation of Beowolf so he could have taken the idea of battling dragons and hidden gold. I know Tolkien was influenced by the Tale of the Volsungs.

I was surprised at how much Christianity impacted the author. There are many times where the characters prasise God or mentions creation. There is a great line about how the Almighty placed the stars. I’ll put it below. All of stories comes from the OT. No mentions of Jesus or the cross.

Quotes –

“The leader of the troop unlocked his word-hoard; the distinguished one delivered his answer” (p. 19) – this line had me laughing.

“. . .in his splendour He set the sun and the moon to be earth’s lamplight, lanterns for men” ( p. 9).

“May one so valiant and venturesome come unharmed through the clash of battle” (p. 21)

Language – None

Violence – Nothing graphic or gratuitous. Beowolf wrestles with Grendel and somehow pops his arms off. Grendel kills many Danes. His mom eats someone and beats up Beowolf. The dragon pillages and burns villages. He mortally wounds Beowolf.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Beowolf is a fascinating story filled withe feasts, battles, and wars fought. It is similar to Sir Gwain and the Green Knight. Both are poems that depict heroes. Also its shorter then I had expected. Half of my copy was in Old English so really only a little over 100 pages. More readable then I had imagined, but not something I will be rereading over and over. Did I like it? Well, I really liked sections of it.

Up Next – After Beowolf, I just finished Watcher by A. J. Everly. Now I think I’m going to give Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater a try.

Over to you guys: Have you read Beowolf? Have any favorite legends?

Anna

Review for I, Robot

I, Robot (Robot, #0.1)

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Genre – Science fiction, Futuristic,

Series – 1st book in the Robot series

Age Range – Adult

Rating – PG for mild language

Synopsis –

To start, this is a collection of short stories about how robots become progressively smarter then humans & just how do humans fit in this technological world. It’s seen through the lens of Dr. Susan Calvin who specializes in robot sciences. She is looking back at her life and is telling a reporter various incidents that either sparked better robots or led to their demise.

My Thoughts –

Well, I can now say I read this one. I hadn’t really read any science fiction with robots in it before, so I, Robot was my first. It was shorter then I had imagined, but fit the way the author wrote it. Each chapter focuses on a different robot and there are really only a few characters that routinely pop in and out.

Of the few characters that are in there, I really only somewhat liked Greg Powell & Mike Donovan. They had some humor to the few stories they are in. They make quite the duo. When trying to figure out what is wrong with Speedy, a robot to help them collect materials on Mars, they brainstorm different ideas. Eventually doing a sneaky approach to the 3 Robot laws to get Speedy back. I really didn’t care for Susan Calvin though. Maybe cause, of my worldview, I don’t agree with robots taking over human society and ruling over us. I just got really annoyed with her love for all things robot.

Of the short stories, I have to say the first one with Robbie was one of my favorites. He was a simple non-speaking robots who was a nurse maid to girl named Gloria. She spent a lot of time with him. Loved her dad and his clever plan to get Robbie back.

Despite my disagreement with some of Asimov’s ideas, he was a master storyteller. He knew how to keep the reader interest and wrote in an engaging way. I was surprised that I liked it more then I had thought I would. Each story involves a crisis caused or involving a robot that the characters have to resolve which became more complex as the robots got more upgrades and such.

Quote:

“We have: one, a robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human to come to harm” (p. 37).

Violence – None

Language – Infrequent mild language used by the human characters.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Honestly, it was odd, but not horrible. I found it interesting that he gave the robots 3 rules that must be obeyed. Each one revolved around protecting humans or the robot from destruction. Being a Christian, I didn’t necessarily agree with some of the character’s choices and the whole thing against those who don’t trust robots. Kind of scary cause I can see us in the not so distant future using more AI technology.

Side Note – I also finished Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han. A good conclusion to the trilogy.

Up next – I will finish up The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place which I am thoroughly enjoying!!

What have you been reading lately? Happy May!

Anna

Review for Merlin

Merlin by Stephan Lawhead

Genre – Christian, Fantasy, Historical fiction

Series – 2nd book in The Pendragon Cycle

Rating – PG-13 for violent battles

Well folks it took me a wee bit, but just finished Merlin! Let’s just say I really enjoyed this book!! Last summer I read Taliesin which surprised me. You can see my thoughts here – Review for Taliesin

Excited Season 2 GIF by The Office

As I’ve talked about before, legends, particularly Robin Hood and Arthur, are really intriguing and speak to me. I love the quests and adventures and how that changes them. Recently, I’ve been in the mood to continue this series. Overall, I liked Merlin more then Taliesin. Being able to hear his thoughts helped a lot!

Synopsis –

Merlin was born to two parents of noble lineage. His mom Charis, a lost princess of Atlantis who came to Britain seeking refuge. She married Taliesin a Bard who became a king to his people. Because of this, Merlin was well taught in everything from sword craft to the art of a Bard. Hafgan and Dyfed, and Blaise teach the young lad everything they know. Especially when it comes to Jesu who is The Great Light. In his 12th year Merlin is captured by Hill folk and separated from all he holds dear. What will he do? Will he find his purpose in life?

My Thoughts –

So far this series has taken a different take on the Arthurian legends. It has more Celtic roots with a dash of fantasy thrown in for good measure. To me the characters in Merlin were an upgrade. We can see their thoughts and what drives them. Plus, I liked Charis as a person, she felt more down to earth and humble. Ygerna is another strong female character. Call me weird, but I did not care for Ganieda. She felt flat. Now Dyfed was fascinating. I loved seeing the shift from being a Druid to Christianity. Dyfed really stood up for the truth and had an impact on Merlin’s life.

I really enjoyed getting to see a young Merlin. So often we see the tail end of his life with setting up Arthur. The only other place I’ve seen him young is in show The Adventures of Merlin which I love!! His path in life wondered a bit, which seemed realistic to me. He honestly had no clue what to do with his life. Although I was kinda surprised Lawhead made him a king. I loved the qualities that he gave Merlin, of being an upright and truthful young man.

For this particular book the plot meandered and was a slow burn. I truly didn’t mind that when you did have action it moved along quickly. The whole battle in slow motion was cool reminded me of Alistair Coldhollow’s ability from The Mydrian Constellation series. Personally, I loved the Celtic angle with all the kings of their own slice of land and then seeing the progression to having one British High King. There were times when I wanted the plot to move closer to the legend, but I got used to it.

Lawhead did something unique and almost entirely removed magic from the tale. Instead Merlin has visions, does miracles, along with a slow-mo fighting ability. There is a small dose of magic with the Hill Folk, but its not the spell or incantation kind. I didn’t really like the Fhain/Hill folk, but they valued their children more then gold which was neat. Also, we see Druid beliefs and how Christianity impacts and changes the Druid ways.

Overall there are many Christian themes and beliefs woven throughout. Several of the characters follow Jesu or Christus as they call him. We hear some of Merlin’s prayers as he asks for guidance. Several of the Druids convert to Christianity and they become priests and Bishops. We hear the gospel preached at a service.

I wanted to add a new section for favorite quotes:

“Wisdom will be given when wisdom is required, courage when courage is required. All things are given in their season” (p. 35).

“The body knows it is dust, and will return to dust in the end, and it grieves for itself. The spirit, however knows itself to be eternal and glories in this knowledge” (p. 134).

“Darkness has no power over light, and no power on earth can move me if I do not wish to be moved” (p. 259).

Language – Occasional uses of a certain word although typically used in its proper form. Also, a demon swears.

Violence – There are only a handful of battles, but one in particular got a bit gruesome. There is a surprise ambush and only a small force to defend the land. Ganieda is violently killed with multiple stab wounds and they killed her unborn baby and see a blue finger sticking out. Merlin then goes on killing spree and kills many Saecsen barbarians. We are told bodies lie all around and the river turned crimson. Later on, a few characters are poisoned and killed.

Innuendo – Merlin and Ganieda get married. They prepare for their wedding night and lie in each others arms. Thankfully that’s the extent of it. Two brothers fall for the same women and false rumors spread about her.

Conclusion –

Merlin was the perfect mix of fantasy with historical fact. Ancient Britain is a fascinating place filled with warlords and invading barbarians. You have noble kings who stand for what is right and a receding Roman empire about to crumble. A young man goes on a journey to find his purpose in life and ends up uniting a tattered kingdom. This book was a perfect way to spend my spring break! Definitely not a book you will finish in one sitting, but I highly recommend it if you love legends.

Up Next – I’ll be starting Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, its been a while since I’ve read sci-fi.