Review for The Mysterious Benedict Society

It me again! Yes, I’m back for another review; two in a one week! What perfect timing! On the eve of Thanksgiving finishing one of my favorite MG books of all time. That is well worth giving thanks! This is a series I grew up loving and as a family we read these together. On one of our vacations, we listened to the audiobook which kept my dad entertained while driving. As kids, my siblings and I even tried to make a movie out of it. Let’s just say we only filmed about 2 scenes worth. 😉

Usa Network Fist Bump GIF by Psych

With great pleasure I give you The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart

Genre – MG fiction & sci-fi

Series – 1st book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series

Rating – PG for mild peril and danger

Synopsis –

Reynie Muldoon lives in an orphanage and despite being bullied for being smart, he enjoys his tutor Miss Perumal. One day while reading the newspaper together, Reynie spies an ad seeking exceptional children. After consulting Miss Perumal, he sets out to complete the test. Throughout these series of tests Reynie finds several things that are odd and make no sense. He eventually is joined by three other children who also passed. Together they are told they must stop a madman from brainwashing the world.

My Thoughts –

What a fun book! I enjoyed it when I was younger and still love it today! That speaks a lot for a book to hold up after all these years. I truly believe anyone would enjoy it! Stewart does a wonderful job creating a world that is similar to our own and with such relatable characters. Before I talk about these fantastic characters, I wanted to mention the mystery. The book is filled with puzzles and riddles. The high arcing one though is who is sending these messages and why. The author build it in such a way as to keep the reader interested and invested in what is happening. Is is a super complex mystery? No, but its done well.

Now, there are four main characters: Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance. Of all the characters on my reread I connected with Reynie the best. He is an average boy, who fears being left alone. You cannot but feel for Reynie and the gang. Being an orphan would be hard. Kate is so upbeat is hard not to like her optimism and charm. Both Sticky and Constance have grit and perseverance that isn’t easily seen. All of them experience normal emotions and yet when push comes to shove, they stand together which I love.

Ever since I first read this, narcolepsy has intrigued me. Its awesome when authors include people with disabilities, especially ones that aren’t discussed as much. I even used narcolepsy as a subject for one of my college papers.

There are so many great themes like teamwork, forgiveness, finding family, and sacrifice. Stewart writes for children, but also teaches life lessons hidden inside. These themes stand out in today’s society where right and wrong are based on how you feel. Also, much of the Emergency feels like what has occurred over the past two years. Who would have thought that a middle-grade book written in 2007 would stay pertinent.

So many great things I could say about this book! I mean Sticky and his parents just makes you want to cry and then go over and give him a hug. Milligan’s story as well! I’m a sucker for amnesia as I’ve mentioned before. Not sure why. Hmm, it is very odd.

I do want to mention that they made this into a TV series on Disney+ which does capture the 50s vibe. Also, the costumes are super cool. I just didn’t care for how they portrayed Reynie or Mr. Benedict. Two key roles to the whole story. I mean Reynie is pronounced similar to Jenny. Even the audiobook had that right. Why did they make it sound like Rainye??And I cannot begin to talk about what they did to S. Q. Pedalian which is sad. Beside all that, it is a decent show, just not quite faithful to the book.

Quotes –

“”Are You A Gifted Child Looking for Special Opportunities?” How odd, he thought. The question was addressed directly to children, not to their parents” (p. 3)

“The Mysterious Benedict Society,” Constance said, rising as she spoke. Then she left the room, apparently convinced that no more discussion was necessary. And, as it turned out, she was right.” (p. 145)

“Yes, he had wanted to convince Mr. Curtain he was working alone, had wanted to take suspicion off the children. He had sacrifice himself for them” (p. 409).

“He held his breath until the message was completed. Remember the white knight. Reynie let out his breath. A long, slow release. He didn’t have to think very hard to know what Mr. Benedict meant by that.” (p. 369)

Conclusion –

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a lovely book where you cannot but love the characters. Of the four in the series, not counting the prequel, this is my favorite! The prequel coming in close second. Which makes me want to go back and reread it as well! I cannot highly recommend it enough!! 🙂

Have you read this series? What are your thoughts? Have a favorite character?

Anna

Review for The Way of Kings

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

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

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Genre – Fantasy

Series – 1st in The Stormlight Archive

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

Synopsis –

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

My Thoughts –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look forward to hearing from you!

Anna

All About You Round the Blogosphere Tag

Hello blogger friends!

I’ve been a bit absent of late, work has been busy and on top of that my reading has slowed down immensely!! Currently, I’m working on finishing up The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Whew, its longer then I had expected, but I’m enjoying more then I had thought I would.

Anyway, Ivy Miranda has tagged me for an All About You Tag which I’m super excited to take part in. Thanks Ivy!! If you want to see her post, click here- https://revealedintime.blogspot.com/2021/10/all-about-you-round-blogosphere-tag.html#more

On to the questions!

What is your favorite book/series and why?

Hmm, there are so many, but I’ll go with my gut A Sword in the Stars by Wayne Thomas Batson which is a part of The Myridian Constellation. This is one of my all time favorite series. I think I was roughly 14 when this first came out and having finished The Lord of the Rings, I was looking for more fantasy. This series fit the bill perfectly!! Plus, Alastair Coldhollow has one of the best character arc ever.

Who is your favorite author?

Again, so many good ones. J. R. R. Tolkien was the one of the first fantasy authors I discovered. He is a masterful writer who created a whole language to go with his world. Gary D, Schmidt is a more recent author who brings some depth to the MG genre. Lastly, Trenton Lee Stewart, literally grew up reading The Mysterious Benedict Society.

What is your favorite food?

Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies - Eat With Clarity

Chocolate Chip cookies – warm and soft, only slightly crunchy on the outside, being GF can make these a bit tricky, but I have accomplished making these taste great!

What gives you inspiration for your books?

As much as I’d love to be an author, that just isn’t my cup of tea. I tried writing a short story once, and I got so frustrated as I just kept coping off of a book series. However, movies, shows, and books can be inspiration for blog posts. I especially dig emotional, deep and good character development in movies or shows. It’s one of the reasons I’m re-watching Lost. 😉

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I love sunshine and hills or mountains. Cornwall and Port Issac would be an amazing places to live. You are right on the coast of a quaint fishing village. Also New Zealand!

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Are you an introvert or extrovert?

Introvert – I do enjoy hanging out with people, especially good friends or family.

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

Beware, she reads big books which can lead to emotions over characters!

I tag:

Movies Meet Their Match

And anyone else who like to join!! Here are the questions –

What is your favorite book/series and why?

Who is your favorite author?

What is your favorite food?

What gives you inspiration for your books?

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Are you an introvert or extrovert?

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

Thanks again to Ivy for the tag and the graphic!

Anna

Tolkien Blog Party!!

Hello one and all! I’m so exciting to be participating in the Tolkien Blog Party hosted by Hamlette over at https://theedgeoftheprecipice.blogspot.com/. What a fun way to kick off fall! I did the tag last year and had so much fun seeing how other people answered the tag. This year Hamlette has some great questions focusing on the number 9, some are quite tricky to answer.

So let’s get started shall we!!

1. Aragorn: Favorite Tolkien hero/heroine –

Alright, so I have two! 😉 The first being Aragorn. I fell for his character the first time I read the books; his mysterious appearance and willingness to support Frodo. Plus, he made such a great king. He fought for what was right and showed courage in the darkest night. Viggo Mortenson was spot on with his character. I absolutely love the army of the dead scene!

My second fav is Bilbo, particularly the movie version! Martin Freeman does such a great job portraying a homebody who loves all the comfort of home. And his facial expressions are fantastic. You feel for Bilbo and truly want him to become a part of the dwarf group. Plus, he is an amazing poet which I wished they showed more of in the movies.

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2. Boromir: Favorite Tolkien character arc –

I’ve been mulling two in particular, but I’m going to go with the more canonical one – Faramir. When I read the Lord of the Rings last year, the chapter House of Healing really struck me. I had forgotten much of it and loved Faramir and Eowyn’s relationship. The book version of Faramir goes a lot deeper and shows him a more upright man then the movies do. He goes from this Robin Hood type character to becoming royalty. He goes through quite the learning curve while with Frodo.

3. Frodo: Favorite song or poem by Tolkien –

In Western lands beneath the Sun the flowers may rise in spring,

the trees may bud, the waters run, the merry finches sing.

Or there maybe ’tis cloudless might and swaying beeches bear

the Elven-stars as jewels white amid their branching hair.

A long time ago I stumbled across an audiobook of the Lord of the Rings. They sang many of the poems and they had set this piece to music. I adored it then and still do!

Sam's Song ~ The Lord Of The Rings

4. Gandalf: Favorite wise Tolkien quotation –

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“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hold, and that means comfort.”

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

5. Gimli: A Middle-earth location you’d like to visit –

arrow archery and arrow archery and bow kép

Ugh, there are so many! Well, I’ve been thinking about the Hobbit recently, and I think it would be fun to visit the Lonely Mountain and city of Dale before the dragon of course.

6. Legolas: Favorite Middle-earth Weapon –

To be honest, I’ve always wanted to learn how to shoot a bow and arrow. I mean Legolas makes it look so easy! Despite the inaccuracy of him always having enough arrows. 😉

7. Merry: Favorite way to celebrate Tolkien’s stories –

Rereading the books is always a good way to go or a re-watch of the movies. Recently I have to discovered a new way to celebrate … listening to the Friendship Onion podcast!!! Billy Boyd and Dom Monaghan host a new podcast where they discuss life and the Lord of the Rings. They make me crack up so much! It has literally made my Tuesdays so much better!

8. Pippin: Favorite funny Tolkien quotation –

“Fool of a Took!” he growled. “This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance.”

“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not Today. Good morning! But please come to tea -any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Good bye!

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9. Samwise: A Middle-earth food you’d like to try –

There is so much to pick from! I would love to try Sam’s Potatoes! I’m a big fan of anything potato and would love to see how he cooks them. But a dinner with Tom Bombadil would also be lovely! Anybody else curious about what Lembas would taste like??

Well that’s all that I have folks! Hope you are enjoying the blog party! Happy first day of fall!!

Anna

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.

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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!

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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.

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

Two YA fiction Books I’ve Finished

So, after Ender’s Game, I wanted something light and breezy. These two books were a nice break from heavy topics and were just what I needed. I had seen the first two movies in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. So wanted to give it a try. Now, normally I don’t read romance novels as they seem to be so formulaic and boring. I finished To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before first so I’ll talk about that one and move to The False Prince.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Genre – Romance, YA, Growing-up

Series – First book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy

Rating – PG-13 for innuendo and language

Synopsis –

The three Song girls were supposed to stay together forever. Yet, when Margot the oldest Song girl leaves for college in Scotland, Laura Jean feels devastated. After losing their mom at a young age, the three sisters – Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty form a close bond. So, after Margot’s move Lara Jean decides to try her best to fill Margot’s shoes. Unfortunately, someone sends out her secret love letters that she has kept hidden in a box for years. This causes her life at school to tilt on its axis. What will she do?

My Thoughts –

I enjoyed the movie and thought it was cute. I have seen this book pop up on several blogs and was curious just closely the movie followed it. In between work I wolfed the book down in four days. There were parts of the book that I truly liked better then the movie – All the baking, Kitty, Margot’s relationship with her sisters, their dad.

To be honest, I feel a lot like Lara Jean at times. She is a homebody who is close to her sisters and does well at school. I loved how the author incorporated cooking throughout the book. Lara Jean made some amazing sounding cookies and cupcakes. Made me hungry just reading it. However she could be naive and very dreamy at times. She reminded me a bit of Anne from Anne from Green Gables. Where she has these high expectations of having a boyfriend, only to find it isn’t quite what she expected.

Kitty was hilarious and totally the baby of the family. I loved how supportive their dad was and wanting to be apart of their lives. So many YA books showcase poor parenting, and nice to see a strong dad character. I didn’t really care for Josh, he seemed nice, but more for Margot then Lara Jean. Peter was a bit of a toss up. There were times when I really liked him and how he treated Kitty kindly, but other times Peter was very insecure which bothered me.

Favorite Quote – “I’m a betrayer of the worse kind, because I’m betraying my own sister, and there’s no greater betrayal then that.”

Content – Lara Jean mentions at one point how she and Margot were waiting to do it, until they were older or married. However there is talk at school at her school about who is having sex with who. No descriptions though. Lara Jean asks Margot some questions about it later on. Lara Jean kisses Peter in a hot tub. As well as mild language used throughout, with three occasions of strong language.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Genre – Fantasy, YA, Coming of Age

Rating – PG – for mild sword duel violence

Synopsis –

In the land of Carthya, civil war is about to erupt after the king, queen, and princes death. So one of the regents comes up with a plan to stick a false prince upon the throne. He collects four orphans to train and teach how to be royalty. The only problem, Sage has no wish to be a prince. He is a poor orphan who loves his freedom. Conner meanwhile has plan to break Sage and the others down to do his will. If they don’t become the prince, he will kill them. Sage must make a choice to either obey Conner and save his life, but lose the freedom he holds so dear or disobey and lose his life.

My Thoughts –

Honestly, it was an interesting premise, however it was a bit slow and predictable. I love fantasy and wanted to give this one a chance. It did pick up a bit toward the end and resolved well. I kinda saw the surprise at the end coming though.

At the start Sage got on my nerves for his resistance of authority, but later I came to understand where he was coming from. He did grow on me. I liked Rohen, Imogen, and Mott. Mott being my favorite. He was the only one who saw through Sage’s facade and showed some kindness to the boys. I had difficulty figuring out where Conner stood whether he was evil or just a flawed character. I was impressed at how Imogen was able to pretend to be mute.

Really, the one complaint I have with the author, was how she told us everything as opposed to showing us. I mean we had to tell us all the details of just how Jaron survived. I wished she could have done it more subtly. Wasn’t bad, pretty decent, but not the best either.

Content – one character is shot with an arrow and dies, several sword fights, Sage gets sliced by sword, and beaten by Conner with a whip.

Conclusion –

I’ve been trying to keep my reading up although at times, it feels like I’m forcing myself to keep going. Thankfully, these two books were light and breezy enough, they were just what I needed!! I liked both in different ways and glad I gave them go.

Up Next – I’ll be trying I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, although honestly, not super excited for this. 🙂 Then I’ll finish the TAtBILB series with Always and Forever.

Over to you guys, what have you been reading recently? Have you read either of these books? Hope your spring is going well!

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.

Review for Caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Genre – Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Series – 1st book in the Caraval series

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and innuendo

Synopsis –

Scarlet and Tella have lived on their tiny island of Trisda for their whole lives due to their father’s strict rules. Scarlet is preparing for her marriage to a count, meanwhile Tella has created a scheme to escape their island for good. Scarlet is abhorred at the thought of leaving, yet with a sailor’s help, Tella’s plan works and they arrive in time for Legend’s Caraval, a wonderful game lasting 5 nights where dreams and fantasies seem to come alive. Upon arrival, the sisters are separated. Scarlet makes it her goal to win the game and save her sister, but the game becomes very real, very fast. Will Scarlet be able to tell what is real or become lost in the land of fantasy?

My Thoughts –

Well, mid-January I kinda hit a reading slump. I’ve started some longer books like The Count of Monte Cristo and Hood which has slowed me down. Not to say that I’m not enjoying these books, but it takes a good amount time to sit and become enthralled with these stories. So, I decided to try a new book and was pleasantly surprised.

I had never heard of Caraval or Stephanie Garber before reading this book. It started a bit slow as I stepped into this mysterious world. Garber has a way of sweeping you off your feet with glittering descriptions and dazzling characters that felt just a bit like The Phantom of the Opera with a secret villain/hero who invisibly pulls the strings expertly. I enjoyed the whole mystery surrounding Legend and Scarlet’s Nana.

The characters were set in a beautiful world, yet seemed to lack something. I did enjoy a few like Julian and Scarlet, but the rest seemed to fade in the background at times. I wanted to like Tella, but she got on my nerves more often then not that I came to dislike her. Although the end helped me to like her better. *note* I’ve read the second book Legendary, and still dislike Tella so not just the setting. Julian was quit the swashbuckling rogue, that eventually won me over to his side. Scarlet was my favorite! I appreciated that the author gave her flaws and that she wasn’t perfect. Yes, she wanted to save her sister, but she also became lost and indecisive on how to precede. Julian and Scarlet did make a cute couple. 😉

Garber has a way with words and knows how to make things sparkle with color and delightful descriptions. You truly want to go visit Caraval and join the game. Yet, with all this word building, the world felt a little flat. I didn’t feel like she explained her world very well. Just sorta jumped right into the action. I wanted a little history. The plot is very action oriented and moves rapidly which makes it hard to put down.

I loved the idea of a game that takes place once a year and never in the same location twice. The actors switching roles every game was a neat little trick. Because of this, the actors couldn’t reveal certain information like who Legend is or key parts to the clues. Which lead to several actors having to lie to Scarlet about who they were. Although I didn’t appreciate all the lying that happened. We did end up seeing how lies can be harmful.

Language – Mild- maybe one or two uses of mild language, used pretty sparingly

Violence – Um, yeah, well there was violence kinda throughout. We have several characters die mostly off the page, but one that I’ll talk about later we see happen. Scarlet’s father was abusive to the girls growing up. If one disobeyed, the other sister was punished. At the beginning, we see him hit Tella. As a consequence for Scarlet trying to get a clue, she pays for it with a day of her life. She almost dies if not for Julian giving her some of his blood. Blood has power in the book. At the end, Tella falls off a tower dying instead of going to Trisda with her father. Turns out it was all it was all a plan, and through Scarlet’s love, comes back to life.

Innuendo – At the start we find Julian and Tella kissing in a cellar. Although Tella is just using him to get to Caraval and doesn’t truly care for him. Julian also was trying to orchestrate the girls coming to Caraval. Scarlet begins to fall for Julian during her stay in Caraval. There is a mix-up with their bedroom which only has one bed. Scarlet refuses to sleep in the same room as Julian. They share a passionate kiss after he saves her life.

Conclusion –

It was a frothy book filled with colors and imagination that you can almost taste. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed Caraval quite a bit and eagerly moved to the second one, (which is no where near as good as the first). The characters were flat at times, but also mysterious. For picking up a random book off a bookstore’s shelf, I enjoyed it.

Up next, I’ll be finishing Hood and continuing my reread of The Count of Monte Cristo.

Can you believe that January is almost over!? What have you been reading this month? Any fun new reads?

Anna