The Inheritance Games Vs. Truly, Devious

First, in this post I wanted to compare two YA mysteries that I recently finished and discuss which one I preferred. I’ll give a little background for each book. Let’s get started!

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Barnes

Genre – Family Drama, Mystery, Adventure

Series – 1st book in The Inheritance Games series

Rating – In between a solid PG and a soft PG-13

Synopsis –

Avery Grambs is normal teenager who is just trying to make it through high school. After her mom passed away, she moved in with her step-sister, Libby. One day while busy with classes, she is called to the office. There a handsome young man who tells Avery that she is named in Tobias Hawthorne ‘s will. A wealthy man who Avery didn’t even know existed. Upon arrival at his mansion, she finds she isn’t the only one eager to hear the will. Tobias had two daughters & four grandsons, Nash, Grayson, Jameson, & Alexander. These brothers don’t take kindly to a stranger waltzing in stealing their fortune. Will Avery figure out why her name is in the will?

My Thoughts –

I’ll briefly go over what I thought of The Inheritance Games before moving on to the next one. I liked Avery quite a bit, she wasn’t the typical rebellious teenager, she had some grit to her. Her dream to travel the world was sweet as she was inspired by her mom. Now Libby on the other hand, while compassionate, was so annoying. I just kept asking why Libby, why would you do that?? Jameson also was a bit of a jerk at times and I just didn’t care for him. I loved Oren the security guard. He is definitely someone who you want on your side. Grayson and Xander were funny and took a little getting used too.

I feel like the plot balanced character growth with action and the plot moving forward. The mystery surrounding Tobias Hawthorne was intriguing. Loved the hidden clues and how Hawthorne wanted his family to work together. Now that I look at it kinda similar to The Ultimate Gift movie. It was a book that I enjoyed and didn’t want to put down.

Content – Mild occasional language, some kissing. A brief mention of a dead character character being lesbian

Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson

Genre – Mystery, Coming of Age,

Series – 1st book in the Truly Devious series

Rating – PG-13 for swearing and innuendo

Synopsis –

Stevie Bell is a true crime fanatic. She loves mysteries and has read all the classics. After convincing her parents that Ellingham Academy is the place for her, she arrives at this isolated school in the mountains. She then sets out on a journey to solve an actual crime that happened there back in 1936. Albert Ellingham founded this academy as a free school to the brightest minds. In 1935 he, his wife Iris, and daughter Alice create their mansion and Academy. Then the unexpected happens Alice and Iris are kidnapped. Ellingham tries everything he can to save them, yet the ransom money is not enough. Later it is found that his wife was dead. Will Stevie be able to put the pieces together to solve this cold case?

My Thoughts –

Hmm, I’m trying to get my thoughts in order. First, I really didn’t care for Stevie or her friend Janelle. Almost all the kids at Ellingham are kinda horrid. The only one I even somewhat connected to was the writer kid Nate. Stevie was very proud of how much she knew about the case and how smart she is which got repetitive and grating. Also, I could tell David was lying and a bad influence from miles away.

I did listen to this as an audiobook. Let’s just say I didn’t care for the narrator. She could not do different voices so all the guy voices really run together and made it hard to distinguish who was who. So, that might have been the problem.

Ok, so I liked the the Ellingham case in the 30’s that mystery was interesting, but the modern mystery of Hayes’s death, ick, boring. Also, the flashbacks/flash forwards were done at odd times. I would have preferred the setting be just one time frame. I was hoping that by the end we would find out who the culprit was behind the Devious letter, but nope. Honestly, Stevie doesn’t find out anything new until like the last page.

Content – The teens swear and have a make-out session. Also there are two lesbian characters which felt a little much.

Now I’ll compare the two. Both books have a female lead who is out to solve a crime/mystery. I feel like Avery is a more flushed out character and I liked her a whole lot better then Stevie. Stevie was stuck up and had a hatred for her parents which I didn’t care for. Also, the supporting characters were better in The Inheritance games. I did like Nate in Truly, Devious, but he didn’t get much page time. Xander’s thoughts on scone eating had me laughing. Overall, the best characters goes to The Inheritance Games. Also, why did both authors have stick in lesbian characters? In my opinion we can write quality books without sticking stuff like that in.

Comparing the setting between the two, Truly, Devious had a more dark, ominous tone that was very like a classic noir film. I found it funny that both took place at rich schools or with wealthy individuals. While the mystery in The Inheritance Games felt more lighthearted and National Treasure like. Both were intriguing and both left on a bit of a cliffhanger with unanswered questions. Now I don’t mind unanswered questions, I mean Lost is one of my favorite shows, but I wish the authors could have given us a bit more to go on.

Conclusion –

As you can probably tell, I liked The Inheritance Games a whole lot better! Hands down. Now is it my favorite YA book, no. I feel like there are others that have a better mystery and a wee bit better written. Although I could see this making an interesting movie.

Now over to you! Have you read either of these two books? Do you have a favorite YA book?

Up next – I’m reading Merlin by Stephan Lawhead. Felt in the mood for more Arthurian Legend. 😉

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

We Love Pirates Tag

Ahoy there, me hearties!! We are going to embark on a post celebrating pirates. Hamlette is hosting a whole week devoted to pirates!! So, I thought I’d join by doing the tag. I mean who doesn’t love pirates! You can check out the prizes and tag here – https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2021/02/we-love-pirates-week-party-kick-off-and.html.

Let’s set sail!

The Dawn Treader

1.  What are your favorite pirate movies or books?

So many to pick from!! First, my favorite pirate book ever is Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson. Its amazing and includes everything from a pirate who wants to retire to monks who hid an ancient treasure. Treasure Island is another favorite. As for movies, I have two: Hornblower & the first PotC Curse of the Black Pearl. They are almost complete opposites of each other. 😉 Princess Bride being a runner up.

2.  Who are your favorite fictional pirates?

Declan Rose from the Isle of Swords. He looks out for his family while combing the seas for his enemy. Also, Fin Button from The Fiddler’s Gun. She is brave and is able to pull off quite the disguise! I’m also gonna throw in Edmond Dantes. He has a stint as a pirate while hiding his newly found treasure. Wesley was also an interesting pirate.

3.  What do you like best about pirate stories? (Themes, costumes, aesthetic, etc.) Hmm, good question. All of the above I suppose, (mentally said that in Bilbo’s voice). Although, I love the themes the most! Betrayal, Honor, Loyalty. Good stuff!! Aesthetics can be really cool too.

4.  If you were going to play a pirate on the stage or screen, what would your costume look like?

To start, I’d need a pair of breeches with short ankle length books, preferably black & a hidden knife. Then maybe a loose fitting white shirt with a scabbard & belt of some kind including. To finish a coral necklace and a bandana.

5.  What pirate ship would you like to serve on? The William Wallace for sure!! As it would be an honor to serve on Ross’s crew. I’d want a captain who ran a tight ship, yet showed kindness when needed. Although serving on the HMS Indefatigable hunting pirates, might also be fun.

6.  Any favorite sea shanties or pirate songs? When I was little, I loved “The Pirates who Don’t Do Anything” song and that’s about it.

7.  Have you ever participated in International Talk Like a Pirate Day? No, cannot say I have.

8.  Would you like to go sailing on a real tall ship? Yes, I’d love to go sail around the world. I’ve only been on a boat maybe twice, but it seemed very relaxing to me. So why not take on a big ship! Not sure if I’d be brave enough to climb the rigging though. 😉

9.  Have you ever learned anything about real pirates, or do you tend to stick to the fictional kind? Mostly stick to fictional pirates.

10.  Why is the rum gone? Hmm, well I was supposed to guard it, but fell asleep and woke up to the rum being gone. I guess now I better go hunt for the rum or face the wrath of my superior. Wouldn’t want them thinking I’d stolen it.

Well that’s it folks! Hope you enjoyed that tag! And thanks to Hamlette for hosting!!

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. 😉 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 . 😉 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 😉 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