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.

Review for Greenwillow

Greenwillow by B. J. Chute

Genre – Romance, Village Life, Cozy

Series – No

Rating – G – Pretty clean

Synopsis –

Welcome to Greenwillow, where things tend to stay the same. Until an unwanted preacher comes claiming to be from the Bishop. Greenwillow is unsure how to handle this as they already have a preacher. They eventually settle for holding 2 services on Sunday due to their different preaching styles. Then we meet the Briggs family whose father/husband left them to go wandering When the Amos Briggs returns, both preachers go trying to convince him to stay. Gideon the oldest Brigg child, fears for his call to wander as he loves working the farm. Dorrie is a nearby adopted orphan who supports Gideon and wishes that his call won’t come.

My Thoughts –

To start this year has been a great year for audiobooks! I had this on my 2021 list and was surprised they had Greenwillow as its a bit older. I found this audiobook quaint and charming. The narrator is wonderful and did unique voices for each character which I appreciated!

Throughout the book, Chute creates some beautiful and lyrical descriptions whether it be discussing the Meander river or Dorrie’s tarts. It’s done in a way that makes you want to visit the village of Greenwillow. It follows this village through all the seasons which was neat to see.

This is a very character driven novel that shows their everyday life. For me the characters felt real and life-like. I connected with Dorrie and her life at Miss Madie and Miss Emma’s house. She is a soft spoken character who shows kindness wherever she goes. Of the Briggs family, Micah was my favorite. Quite the bubbly personality and very curious! I chuckled at granny’s antics with her turnip and tramping through the snow to save their cow. The two reverends got on my nerves, not sure if it was their bickering or something else.

The plot takes it time to develop, kinda wanders as we are introduced to the cast of characters. If you are looking for something fast paced or with action, this isn’t it. Nothing really out of the ordinary occurs, which was pleasant. Reminded me of the Miford books by Jan Karon.

The theological elements of the book were kinda odd. The two preachers -Lapp & Birdsong held vastly different views. Lapp preached about hell and needing to repent or the devil will catch you, while Birdsong took the everyone is happy and saved approach. I so wanted a bit about being saved by grace and the works of Christ, but mostly focus is on works. I think their Catholic We did see a turnaround at the end, but didn’t feel quite right.

Language – None

Violence – None

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Greenwillow takes you back in time before technology and the internet. Where a villagers find a lost pig big news and a cow being born a proud accomplishment. I’d highly recommend this one!! Especially if you are looking for a change in pace!

Up Next – Finishing up The Power of One, which is our Church’s book club pick and The Inheritance Games.

How is your spring going? What have you been reading/listening too? Have you heard of Greenwillow?

Anna

Review for Mawson’s Will

Mawson’s Will – The Greatest Survival Story Ever Written

by Lennard Bickel

Genre – Nonfiction, Exploration, Survival

Series – Standalone

Rating – PG-13 for survival related violence

Synopsis –

Dr. Douglas Mawson had been to Antarctica once before on the 1908 expedition to Mt. Erebus. This light a fire in Mawson who yearns to return to the inhospitable continent. He seeks the help of Shackleton, but Shackleton has no interest in exploring west of Cape Adare. So, Mawson assembles his own team which became known as the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. By December of 1911, Mawson emerged at the coast of Antarctica. He divided his crew into 2 groups, one captained by Frank wild who would endeavor to reach the magnetic south pole, the other by Mawson that would explore West. What ensues is an epic story of survival and exploration of Antarctica.

My Thoughts –

Survival stories fascinate me! Being lone in a wilderness and coping with whatever weather is thrown your way is an accomplishment in itself. Let alone going to the coldest continent. Mawson shows the meaning of courage, bravery, & resilience! Before reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Antarctica. So I loved learning about its climate and changes in weather. The one thing I wish the book had was a map of Mawson’s travels. Thankfully, there is one on the internet that proved helpful and I referred to quite a bit.

Personally I don’t think I would have what it takes to live there for over 2 years. Some of the wind gusts were over 90 mph! In Antarctica’s winter it could get down to 60 degrees below freezing. Which first off, I didn’t know Antarctica could have a winter, figured it was winter year round, which isn’t far from true. It’s winter is the stormy/wind season. Gets the most snowfall.

Anyways, the story really picks up once Mawson sets out on his march across Antarctica. Before that, there’s lots of going over who’s who in the world of exploration. They spent almost 11 months in their hut before being able to travel. I loved how inventive Mawson and his men were. If they didn’t have something, they’d try to make it. Or if a tent piece broke they’d find a way to fix it. They brought everything they needed from the boat and made do.

I was surprised at how often Mawson mentions his faith or at least his belief in Providence. He has a hymnbook he reads from on several occasions as well as prayers he says for their journey/funerals. As well as quoting scripture on occasion. He questions why God would take away one of his companions.

Now was it the greatest survival story as the name implies? I’m not so sure. I’ve read a variety of survival stories from Unbroken to We Die Alone. They each have their own incredible tale. Was Mawson’s survival surprising? Yes! I mean after eating such a high level of vitamin A, he should be dead. The whole overdosing on Vitamin A was really interesting. And truly made me feel sorry for Mertz! Only by the hand of the Almighty did Mawson live to tell his story.

Language – None, at least none that I remember

Violence – Okay, so here is where it can get a little grisly. * Spoilers ahead * So Ninnis dies by falling into a crevasse taking most of the food stores with him. This causes Mawson and Mertz to rely on the huskies livers. Now they only killed them when the dog was on it’s last legs. But yeah, they talk about shooting or killing them. Mawson then would chop the carcass up and turn it into jelly. Now Mawson did treat these animals with the greatest respect. Also, we see the affects caused by high levels of vitamin A. Mawson’s soles fall off, his fingers nails nails are in bad shape and mentions of sores all across his body. So not for the faint of heart.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Mawson’s lone trek to civilization is incredible. Just goes to show that our human body is amazingly designed! It made me appreciate living on a continent that has people. Reading this book, made me want to see Antarctica. It’s not the best book ever written, but I enjoyed it!

Up Next – I’m working on another survival story set in the Peruvian Andes called Touching the Void by Joe Simpson.

Do you enjoy a good survival tale? Have any favorites?

Anna

Review for Hood

Hood by Stephan Lawhead

Genre – Historical fiction, Legend, Retelling

Series – 1st in the King Raven Trilogy

Rating – PG -13 for battles, violence and innuendo

Synopsis –

Bran ap Brychan is royalty. The sole heir to the land of Elfael, a small kingdom in Wales. More then anything, Bran wishes to remain free from the burden of kingship. He’d prefer to spend his days wooing Marian. Elfael although small, is the first line of defense for the Welsh people against the Norman invasion. Many of the leading Lords have given up the fight including Marian’s father, Lord Cadwgan, who has joined forces with the Norman Baron Neufmarche. After his father’s death, Bran faces a choice: stand and fight for his people or flee to the north. But whom can he trust?

My Thoughts –

To start, I love legends, especially medieval ones like Robin Hood or King Arthur. Something about them sparks my imagination and makes me wish I could join them in their quests. I’ve mentioned my fondness for the Arthurian legend before and reviewed several different versions. I read Hood many years ago and had forgotten most of the plot. Upon finding it at a local bookstore, I eagerly bought it to reread.

Lawhead does an interesting thing with this particular legend and takes it completely out of Sherwood Forest. Instead, he places Robin in Wales. It works really well!! It gives Bran a reason to fight against the Normans or Ffreinc as they are called. He keeps some of the famous characters like Little John or Friar Tuck, but changes them up a little.

Bran goes on quite the journey. At the start, he is a stuck up prince who gets everything he wants to becoming the leader of his abandoned people. I like Bran for the most part. His character reminds me a lot of the BBC’s version of Robin Hood. Angharad the bard is an intriguing character to say the least. She is a believer in the one true God who uses her knowledge to awake Bran’s heart. I also like Tuck aka Brother Ffreol. Merian’s character is a little weak to me, but maybe that’s just cause it’s the first book.

The plot moves slowly at first, taking it time to build this medieval world around us. There is quite a bit of politics woven throughout which can be confusing at times. There are so many Barons with similar names, it’s tricky keeping them all straight. Despite all this, the end picks up a bit as we see things start to come together. Just be patient!

The setting is beautiful. We have the rolling hill country of Elfael with farmers and crops. Then we get the marsh and the forest Coed Cadw. It’s very picturesque and makes me want to visit Wales.

Since this is medieval Britain there are Bishops, Priests, and Friars. Some are in it for the money and portrayed as greedy. Others like Brother Ffreol & Bishop Asaph seem devote. We see several characters pray throughout or mention God. Although its a bit murky where they actually sit in their faith.

Language – There is occasional uses of mild language. Not much though.

Violence – In the first few chapters we have a battle in which many of Bran’s countrymen are killed. It is described as covering the fields with blood. We see corpses. Several characters are seriously injured by arrows or stabbed. Later Baron de Brose tries to hunt and kill Bran. Bran eventually fights back by stealing animals & leaving the entrails to frighten the Ffreinc soldiers. He hangs dead mice and other small animals from trees as well.

Innuendo – Bran flirts with Marian and kisses her, hoping for more. But it is made clear that he has not done it yet. Merian ends up pushing Bran away and doesn’t really seem interested in him. Later, Baron Neufmarche takes a shine to Merian, despite being married.

Conclusion –

Lawhead takes an interesting spin on the legend of Robin Hood. I remember loving these books years ago and am glad I got a chance to visit Hood again! I remember the other two books only vaguely. If you enjoy legends, I would highly recommend this one! While having a slower pace, Hood takes you back to time of knights and swords.

Up next – I’ll be reading Mawson’s Will – The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written by Lennard Bickel.

Do you enjoy legends? How about Robin Hood? What have you been reading lately?

Cannot wait to hear your thoughts!!

Anna

Review for A Curious Incident

A Curious Incident: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by [Vicki Delany]

A Curious Incident by Vicki Delany

Genre – Cozy Mystery, Contemporary

Series – The 6th book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries series

Rating – PG for mentions of marital affairs & murder

Synopsis –

Gemma Doyle and her friend Jayne Wilson work together to run a bookshop and tearoom in a quaint New England town. During their busiest season, 11 year old Lauren comes in asking if Gemma could solve the case of her missing cat. Upon finding the lost cat, she wins the Lauren’s trust. A few days later, Lauren, comes in with a trickier task – proving her mom innocence in a murder investigation. Lauren’s mom, Sheila, is an avid gardener. Recently someone vandalized her garden. People assume she took out her frustration by killing her gardener rival Anna Wentworth. Will Gemma be able to get to the bottom of the case?

My Thoughts –

dule hill fist bump GIF

I’m slowly getting my reading groove back!! Whewhoo!! So, I’ve read all the book in this series so far. They are typically sweet and offer a nice reprieve from whatever I’m reading at the moment. Plus who doesn’t love a Sherlock Holmes themed bookshop?? That being said, this one felt a little lacking. The last one, There’s a Murder Afoot was set in London was well done. It shook things up and focused more on Gemma’s family. While here we were back to the same old routine.

I do have to say that I like these characters… for the most part. πŸ˜‰ Gemma is likeable although at times a bit frustrating. Jayne is sweet and a good friend. I did like that the author added Lauren into the mix. She seemed to fit in. Ryan is the faithful police detective/boyfriend. I like Gemma and Ryan together and kinda hoping they tie the knot soon. While Uncle Arthur still elusive as ever. I liked that Jayne is now friends with Andy. Although I’m not sure how many books are supposed to be in the series?

The mystery as a whole was kind bland. The author has settled into a formulaic plot, someone outside Gemma’s circle killed, she sneaks onto site, does her own investigation, meets suspects, almost hurt, & then she solves the case. Gemma being able to leave her store anytime she wants also feels a little contrived at times. I actually guessed who the murderer was before Gemma. Yea, for me!! Doesn’t happen a lot. I guess, I just wanted something a little different. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few parts that had me guessing. Just this particular one not my cup of tea. πŸ˜‰

Was it my favorite in the series? No

Will I keep reading the series? Probably, I mean the whole surprise at end will definitely disrupt the usual routine. And I kinda want to see how the author uses it.

Violence – Pretty sparse. Overall, the author keeps it clean. We find out that Anna was killed by being hit by a rock, but happens off the page. Gemma trips in woods falls and bumps her head. Someone attempts to poison Gemma, but instead poisons Jayne.

Language – None

Innuendo – The main suspect’s marriage is on the rocks. She flirts with her friend’s gardener. At the end, she pulls her act together and her and her husband try to save their marriage. There are a few other affairs mentioned that get kinda tangled. The author keeps the details off the page so we know what’s going on, but not in detail. Also, there are rumors of affairs that turn out to be unfounded.

Conclusion –

I love bookstores in general, so finding a fun cozy mystery series set in a bookshop was a nice find. Plus, I read just about anything related to Sherlock Holmes. πŸ˜‰ Overall, I like this series. Certain ones I like better then others, but it’s nice that the author keeps it relatively clean. Reading this book, has made me want to visit the New England area! It sounds so picturesque.

Up next – I’ll be finishing up Hood. I kinda put it on the back burner while I finished The Count of Monte Cristo.

How about you? Do you like cozy mysteries? What’s your favorite?

Anna

Review for The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Genre – Adventure, Historical, Suspense, Romance

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for violence, death, and an affair

Synopsis –

Edmund Dantes is a young sailor returning from a fated voyage. He is brimming with joy as he has his father, a future as captain of the Pharaon, and is engaged to his beautiful fiance, Mercedes. He does not realize the dark turn of events that will change his life forever. Three men sit at an outdoor cafe create an anonymous note that paints Dantes in a dangerous light. Their names are Fernand, Danglars, & Caderousse. At his betrothal feast, he is put under arrest for being in possession of a Bonapartist letter. Despite his innocence, the deputy crown prosecutor finds his letter which betrays his father’s Bonapartist allegiance and covers it up by sending Dante to prison. Dante is in prison for 14 years. Will he find an escape? What will become of three men who sent an innocent man to his doom?

My Thoughts –

mr bean GIF

I’m back!! Sorry about my long absence!! I feel like it’s been forever sense I have written a post! Let’s just say life has been busy. πŸ˜‰ Plus, it took me a while to actually finish this book. Was it worth the several weeks it took?? Absolutely!!! I loved going back and rereading this classic. There were sections of the plot that I had vaguely remembered and others that felt completely new to me. Anyway, here I am and I’m going to put down my thoughts.

To start this is a massive book!! My copy is 1,243 pages. I believe War and Peace was just a tad longer, but not by much. Which is kinda funny cause The Count of Monte Cristo picks up only a few years in history after War & Peace . πŸ˜‰ There are many subplots woven throughout and affect the main plot in intricate ways. Yet, they all come together and it eventually makes sense why we had all these odd sections of the story. Trust me on this! It does pay off, massively! Real quickly, there are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read it yet tread carefully!

Now, with a such a large book, you would except lots of characters. And there you are right!! There is a ton of characters some from the days when Dante was a young lad, who come back after his escape. Others seem to be completely new *cough* Albert and Franz, looking at you. Dumas does tend to help the reader out by reminding us occasionally who everyone is which is handy. The few characters I struggled with were Albert’s bigwig friends. Who don’t play a major role, but tend to pop up every now and again.

Many of the characters you cannot help but fall in love with like the Abbe Faria, Valentine, Mercedes, Morrel & Dantes himself. I remembered liking the Abbe from my previous read and I found I liked his wit and immense knowledge of the world and languages that he passes on to Dantes. Valentine is so sweet and innocent & I love her love for her grandfather, who at first seemed kinda a scoundrel, but does grow on me. Her relationship with Morrel is an interesting romance. They have so many obstacles to overcome, and yet Morrel is patient. It’s hard to pinpoint what I like about Mercedes as she is more of a complex character who for the majority of the book sits backstage. She loves her son and has endured some tough times.

Then we come to Dantes. What a character arc he goes on!! I kinda had a love/hate relationship with him. On the one hand his friends betrayed him and married his fiance so kinda deserve his revenge. On the other Dantes becomes consumed by his revenge and at times allows the innocent to suffer. Dantes does do it with class and almost uses other characters to pull the trigger if you will. His climax at the end of the book got to me. After seeing what had occurred at the Villefort home, he is overcome with just how far he went down this path. Does have regrets with how everything happened? Yes, I believe so. We see a bit of it with how he treats Morrel. Does he get a happy ending? To an extent, yes.

And what about the villains you ask? Well, most of them I truly despised. Danglars being the worst scoundrel. Ugh, his whole family is rather atrocious.

face punch GIF

Fernand was second to Danglars. He actually sent the evil letter. Caderousse while despicable, wasn’t a complete goner. I had hope for him, sadly that didn’t help. Villefort was the only scoundrel you feel a bit sorry for.

I did want to briefly mention the pacing. For being an adventure novel, it starts off with quite a bang. The first 2oo pages or so move quickly and set everything in motion. Then after that we get a lull.

Season 2 Eye Roll GIF by Friends

There were a few chapters that really dragged, but the whole Roman Bandits chapter could have been completely cut. No use at all, except to give background to a minor character. Just why??

Before I finish, I did want to mention how surprised I was at how Dumas wove some philosophical and religious discussions into the book , similar to War & Peace. There is a brilliant quote during Dantes imprisonment, “God is the last refuge. Such unfortunates, who should begin with Our Lord, only come to trust in Him after exhausting all other sources of hope” (Dumas, p.131). Later, Dante truly believed he was being used by God to minister God’s vengeance. Many of the characters take to praying to God throughout the book which you just don’t see in many books these days. At the very end Dantes comes to realize that the Almighty is the only one who can hold supreme power and the ultimate judge.

Language – Mild infrequent uses of language. Mostly kept within the PG realm.

Violence – There is quite a bit of it. You have a character killed by Caderousse in cold blood for money. During an affair, Villefort tries to kill a baby, turns out someone saves the baby. Mrs. Villefort poisons several members of her family, again for money. Fernand commits suicide. Several other characters die various deaths.

Innuendo – There are two affairs that occur. The first is between Mr. Danglars & Mrs. Villefort. Theirs is pretty subtle. I missed it at first only later do you see its implications. Nothing overt though. Then you have Mrs. Danglars and Lucian Debray. Again, Dumas is subtle so you blink you’ll miss it.

Conclusion –

Honestly, it has been wonderful to read this classic again!! This is a book that I will probably return to in the future as well. There are so many good themes throughout and I picked up on different things this go around. The characters were not so cut and dry. They had depth to them. If you haven’t read this book yet, I’d highly recommend picking it up!! I am hoping to add more classics to my reading list. Any suggestions?

* Up next I will be starting a lighter read – an installment in The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series & listening to Silas Marner (a reread for me).

Have you read it? What are your thoughts? How is your winter going?

Anna

Review for Return of Tarzan

The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Genre – Adventure, Survival, Classic

Series – Second book in the Tarzan series

Rating – PG for peril and violence

Synopsis –

Picking up where Tarzan of the Apes left off, we find Tarzan on an ocean liner heading toward France. He has left Jane that she could marry Clayton. In doing so, he has given up his rightful title of Lord Greystoke. During the ocean crossing, Tarzan intercepts several attempts at besmirching and harming the Count De Coude’s honor. The count and his wife Olga are hounded by a man named Nikolas Rokoff. In siding with the Count, Tarzan has created a formidable enemy in Rokoff who will go to the ends of the earth to seek his revenge. Will Tarzan be able to settle for living a quiet life in France or will he revert to his former lifestyle as an ape-man?

My Thoughts –

I wanted to make sure I published another review before the end of the year. So, I decided upon Tarzan. I enjoy these rollicking adventure stories. They have a completely different feel to them compared to some of the writers today. You have a duel, espionage, fights, desert battles, and surviving the hostile jungle. I will say the first book is better in my opinion. Although, the two books could almost be merged together. The Return of Tarzan continues many of the themes from the first book.

Really the only thing that I didn’t care for was how the RoT was almost two separate books. The first section was set in France with the whole intrigue surrounding the Count and his wife. This section was well written, and I really enjoyed the duel and the courage and sacrifice Tarzan shows. The second half kinda wanders a bit and seems the author throws everything he can think of into it. You go from Tarzan being a spy to him finding the lost city of Opar and let’s not forgot the whole Arabian battle in Sidi Aissa. A little too much hopping from one event to the next for me.

I really liked Tarzan’s progression from a man who didn’t understand many common practices to becoming fluent in a variety of languages and cultured enough to pass in society. He truly cares for those around him and is a loyal person to the point of sacrificing his life. Also, I liked Jane’s personal development as she realized where her heart truly lay.

What a relief it was that Burroughs left off much of his primeval man talk. In Tarzan of the Apes, he spent a lot of time talking about about how man had evolved from the primeval ape. You can really see how Darwin’s theory impacted Burrough’s writing a bit which is kinda sad. Although, Burroughs also mentions a Creator or deity a few times.

Language – Pretty clean, only a handful of uses of mild language

Violence – There are several attempts made to kill or hurt the Count and his wife. Tarzan intercedes in a way that no one is harmed. There is a duel between Tarzan and the Count over possible infidelity. (more on that later) Tarzan is shot twice, but only scratches and is not seriously harmed. He is lead into a trap by Rokoff, yet Tarzan kills and harms Rokoff’s men and a few police officers. He almost kills the count in a fit of rage. Later in Africa is left for dead in the desert. He kills several lions to save his life. Burroughs makes it clear that he does not advocate aimless killing for sport. Tarzan battles several Arabs who work for Rokoff. Later, he is presumed dead after being pushed off a ship. I will note that most of the killing is bloodless and not very descriptive.

Innuendo – Throughout the book it is shown Tarzan being noble and heroic in his dealings with women except for one instance. After meeting Olga on the ocean liner, they become friends and he spends quite a bit of time with her and her husband at their home. Rokoff finds out about this and sets up phony letters to get Tarzan alone with Olga. Upon realizing the set up, Tarzan tells Olga what has happened and he comforts her. They end up kissing. The Count, also sent a letter, rushes home and sees them kissing. He believes that more had occurred. So sets up a duel. Tarzan realizes his mistake takes the blame for what happened and cleared Olga of any crime.

Conclusion –

All in all, it was a light splashy read. For a short novel it takes you many places around the world. I don’t know much about Burroughs, but he wrote in way that felt that he had been to all these places, especially the African sections. I really preferred the first book though. His whole learning to read/write was just fascinating, maybe that’s just cause I’m a teacher πŸ˜‰ The portions of the book on the various ships were great and probably my favorite parts!

Now over to you! Have you read this book or the previous one? How was your Christmas?

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year!

Anna

Top Audiobooks of 2020

I have listened so a handful of audiobooks this year, less then I did last year. Probably due to the pandemic and less driving. πŸ™ Anyway, I wanted to mention a few that I have really enjoyed. Most of these the narrator does a great job drawing you into the story, with one exception. I’m not going to list these any particular order.

On with the show!

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow

This year I dipped my toe in a fair amount of Russian themed books. I had come across A Gentleman in Moscow on several blogs and decided I was in the mood to travel back in time to 1922 Moscow. πŸ˜‰ I really enjoyed this one!! Nicholas Smith narrates and truly brings the character Count Alexander Rostov to life. It tells the story of Count Rostov and how the Bolshevik tribunal place him under house arrest at the fancy Hotel Metropol. While there, he meets some of the most interesting people who help break up him hum drum existence and change his life. This is a whopper of an audiobook as it clocks in at 17 hours, but I’d highly recommend listening to it!

  • The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The Night Gardener

After reading the first two books in the Peter Nimble Adventures, I found that the author had written several other novels. This particular one peaked by interested. It tells the story of siblings who work as servants inside an old manor house. The family that lives there seem to be plagued by problems. The siblings resolve to mind their own business and just do their job, but when Kip sees a mysterious spectre roaming the grounds, Molly needs to figure out what is going on before it’s too late. While creepy at times, it becomes more of a fable for what happens when people become greedy. Beverly Crick adds to the quirky characters. While the book is aimed at middle graders, I’d say young adult on up.

  • My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
My Lady Jane Audiobook By Cynthia Hand,
    
        
            
            
                
            
        
        Brodi Ashton,
    
        
            
            
                
            
        
        Jodi Meadows cover art

Years ago I had read about the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey. This retelling throws history out the window and embarks on its own fantasy twist to the tale. I love retellings and decided to give this one a try. It’s narrated by Katherine Kellgren, and I can honestly say I wasn’t a huge fan of either the book or the narration style. I feel like it had a lot of potential, but I didn’t like the lead character who seemed very prideful to me. Anyway, it was a pretty light and fluffy audiobook, good for the summer (as it has that feel and that’s when I listened to it).

  • The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
The Last Dragonslayer (The Last Dragonslayer, #1)

This was probably my favorite of the audiobooks I listened to this year!! Also, was of the shorter audiobooks only a little over 7 hours, but it is packed with charm and whimsy! The lead character is very relatable and the narrator, Elizabeth Jasicki, did it justice! It is about 15 year old Jennifer Strange who currently runs Kazam, a employment agency for magicians. She has things running as smoothly as they can while the real owner is missing. Yet, odd things begin to happen as the last dragon is predicted to die shortly. The long and short of it is, is a coming of age story with fantasy set in a world very similar to our own. I’d highly recommend giving this one a go!

  • Britt Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman
Britt-Marie Was Here Audiobook By Fredrik Backman cover art

This was the book club’s pick for the month of November and I really enjoyed it quite a bit! I had never read anything by Backman prior to this. So, it was a fun surprise. The narrator is fantastic at giving all the characters a varied voice and made you feel for Britt-Marie. After finding out her husband was having an affair, Britt Marie finds one of the few jobs available for someone her age, running a youth center in Borg. The people in this small broken down village lead Britt-Marie to discover who she really is and what she wants from life. There are so many heartwarming scenes that will make you laugh and then cry. *Warning* The language in this one is rough and used throughout by certain characters.

  • Tarzan of the Apes by Edger Rice Burroughs
Tarzan of the Apes

This was a re-listen for me as I had read this several years ago. To prepare for reading the next book, Return of Tarzan, I figured I’d listen to it in order to re-familiarize myself with the story. Tarzan’s parents die tragically in the jungle leaving behind a wee baby. Kala the ape had just lost her baby and adopts Tarzan as her own. Tarzan grows up with the apes and learns their ways and language. He doesn’t meet one of his own kind until a African native kills Kala. He begins to learn to read and write. When a ship brings Jane Porter and her father Archimedes Porter, Tarzan must decide whether he wants to stay in the jungle or leave for civilization. I enjoyed revisiting the jungle! Jeff Harding does a wonderful job narrating.

Well, that’s all for now! I hope you enjoyed seeing what I listened to this year. Cannot wait to hear from you all! Do you enjoy audiobooks? Or prefer an actual book? What did you listen to this year?

Anna

Review of Ishmael

Ishmael by E. D. E. N. Southworth

Genre – Adult, Historical, Christian Fiction

Series – 1st of two books, followed by Self-Raised

Rating – PG for thematic elements and discussions of a illegitimate birth.

Synopsis –

Hannah and Nora are two sisters who, although they are dirt poor, are quite content with their life. Until Nora meets Herman Brudenell, the handsome land owner’s son. Nora falls in love with him despite Hannah being very obstinate against it. They are soon married in secret for Herman’s mother’s sake. A series of events leads to Nora’s death in childbirth, and cause Herman to flee his newly born son, Ishmael. Despite the odds against him, Ishmael lives. He faces many hardships on his road to understand the world around him.

My Thoughts –

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I finally finished it! Whoohoo! It took me a while to work my way through Ishmael, but hey, at least I made it. My goal was to finish before Christmas, so check that off the list. I cannot say this was my favorite Lamplighter book, but there were some good elements to it. Quite a bit different from any of the other Lamplighters that I had read previously.

Let’s get to the nitty-gritties shall we? To start the character development and setting are spot on! Southworth does a great job giving the characters a backstory and motives for their growth or moral decline. The setting felt real, probably due to fact that this book was written close to time it was set. Ishmael is a likeable character, you root for him to be victorious over the circumstances of his birth and childhood years. Although, for the majority of the book, he felt almost too perfect. He didn’t have any major flaws to speak of, until literally the last chapter. So, that got on my nerves a bit. Beatrice is great women who loves and sacrifices her wants for her friend Claudia.

Now, I had one major problem with it – main character love interest. He fell for the snotty and proud Claudia who views him as a dog. Ugh, this annoyed me so much. He literally will do anything she asks. I really wanted Ishmael to realize how Beatrice felt and cared about him. That being said thankfully the romance side of the story takes a backseat to his growth as a person and Ishmael climbing the proverbial work ladder.

Southworth does a great job weaving faith throughout the book. We see Ishmael’s faith in the Lord grow from barely recognizing his Creator and almost worshiping the founding fathers to a strong devotion to the Lord and reliance upon him. Even Hannah, listened to her dying sister and opted to leave revenge in God’s hands. She could very easily have told everyone the truth of Ishmael’s parentage. So, I appreciated that aspect.

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I do have to mention that it moves very slowly. The plot takes it times and meanders a little bit which was part of the reason I struggled to really sink into the novel. Maybe it’s just me being picky. πŸ˜‰ Whatever the reason, (mentally saying quote from the Grinch) just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

Language – Just a few uses of mind swearing, used by Ishmael’s rivals.

Innuendo – Several of his schoolmates make fun of his birth. Leads to several characters believing that Ishmael was born out of wedlock.

Violence – A house is burning and Ishmael rushes in to save to boys who were trapped. He suffered some burns and bruises. Later, he endeavors to halt a runaway horse and carriage. He is trampled by the horse and wheels of carriage. He breaks a few ribs and both of his legs, maybe his arm as well.

Conclusion –

I can say that I enjoyed bits and pieces. There were many aspects of the book that were very compelling and realistic. Several character just annoyed me with their constant pettiness, but the main character was devoted to the Lord. Written during a very interesting time in history. I can say I read it! Overall, word building was fantastic and very clean.

How is your December going? Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

Anna

Review of Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot, #17)

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Genre – Mystery, Suspense

Series – #17 Hercule Poirot

Rating – PG-13 for violence and death

Synopsis –

The famous French detective Hercule Poirot has decided to take a vacation to Egypt. Little did he know that he would become involved in the mysterious murder of Linnet Ridgeway a British rich aristocrat. A few months before heading to Egypt, Linnet meets with her best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort to talk about Jacqueline’s possible engagement. Jacqueline is madly in love with Simon Doyle, a poor country man, and wants Linnet to give her consent to Jacqueline’s marriage. Several months later. Poirot meets Linnet during his trip in Egypt, and she had married Simon. Linnet is scared for her life and begs Poirot to investigate. After she is murdered on a boat, Poirot needs all of skill to figure out exactly what happened.

My Thoughts –

Sorry if my thoughts get a little jumbled, I finished this book almost a week ago and its still swirling around my head. I’ve only read/listened to a handful of Christie’s novels, yet this one seems to stand out to me. I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express with its unique ending, but I almost liked Death on the Nile more. For starters, the focus is on character development and exploring what makes each suspect tick. I loved this aspect, most whodunit’s just focus on the crime. Then the murder doesn’t happen until half-way through the book. Again, this was different then most mystery novels I’ve read and it really worked!

There is a whole host of characters, some of whom are very well created. I really like how Christie wrote Jacqueline. Although she carries a grudge, I liked and felt sorry for her. I also was drawn to Cornelia; what a bright flower among so many flawed people. Cornelia had a kind and humble heart. Now, I cannot forget Poirot. He is definitely a quirky detective; he’s able to notice things that nobody else does, but also has a soft side. There was a section where he takes Jacqueline aside and they have a little chat. It was such an emotional scene and after having only met this women, Poirot cared about her.

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The plot had several twists and turns to it. I was so sure that certain characters were innocent, but Christie had me fooled. There were a few things that I found odd, but wasn’t able to put everything together.

Although this is not a Christian book by any means, Poirot believes in God. He quotes scripture a few times at just the right moment and on the inside I was like “Yes!” Also, he tries to prevent several characters from making poor decisions.

Language – Mild infrequent swearing

Innuendo – A character marries her best friend’s boyfriend, (we find out later this was all planned by best friend to get money). A character references sex as a subject in her book she wrote.

Violence -Now while it is a murder mystery, Christie keeps the violence to a minimum. You know they die and how, but it isn’t gratuitous. A character is found dead the next morning by gunshot to head. Another character is shot in the leg. A few other characters die, but not very detailed. Later to avoid going to prison, a character commits suicide.

Conclusion –

Death on the Nile gives an interesting look at what can lead a person to do horrible things. There is a lot to think about and I really enjoyed diving into another Agatha Christie novel. I had a hard time putting it down!! Personally, I love seeing an in depth look at characters and their development . So this was right up my alley. Overall, a well written story that defiantly worth a read!

Have you read any Agatha Christie books? Do you have a favorite? Hope you are having a wonderful November!

Anna