Winter Reads

OK, so it has been a while since I have popped on here. I know last time I said I would be more consistent. Unfortunately, life can get super busy. Hoping to change that and become more regular. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Seinfeld gif. Looking shocked, Michael Richards as Kramer holds up a hand as he backs up and yells, โ€œSorry!โ€

Now over to the good stuff; what have I been reading? These past few months I’ve been reading longer books which have slowed me down a bit. Here is a snapshot

Honestly, looking now at these titles, it is quite a diverse group. Hind’s Feet and HTWF&IP are both book club picks.

Okay for Now – this was a reread back in January. So, glad I did! Doug Swieteck is such a great character you can root for. Probably, my favorite of Schmidt’s books so far. Set in the late ’60s and tackles some heavy topics.

Hind’s Feet in High Places – So, our book club’s pick for January, it’s a YA allegory, but kinda weird. Much-Afraid desperately wants to follow the Shepherd to the high places, but faces many obstacles on the way. Cannot say I loved this one. Hurnard had some new-age beliefs and I think she left Christianity later in her life.

Just Like That – My sister has been wanting me to read this for a while now. I finally agreed. This is a sequel to Wednesday Wars and continues Meryl Lee’s story. Tackles grief in a good way. What can I say Schmidt is a good author even if this is MG fiction. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – I’ve seen this around the blogosphere, but didn’t know much about it. Probably my favorite new to me book so far. Eleanor sticks to routine and follows the same schedule each week. She decides to shake things up a bit with some help from the IT guy at work, Raymond. I found this one hilarious and in the vein of A Man Called Ove. A bit odd, but enjoyable and a quick read.

A Prayer for Owen Meany – This book, hmm, I keep coming back to it. Took me almost 2 months to finish, but finish I did. Despite the title, I would not consider this to be a Christian book. It does delve into faith, but not quite in how you would expect. Owen is born with a squeaky voice, and he believes that he will be God’s instrument for an event. His best friend John isn’t so sure. Bits I loves, while other section, mostly the Vietnam rants were a bit much.

The Word is Murder – A friend of mine recommended this to me, and glad they did. A murder mystery where the author is a character. We see the whole mystery from his perspective. So far of the 3 books in the series I’ve read, this one is the best. Hawthorne asks Horowitz to write a book about the case they are solving. Complex and I had no idea who was the killer.

How to Win Friends & Influence People – Our book club’s pick for March. Super interesting. Carnegie gives tips on how to work with people and win them to your way of thinking. Many of his examples are set in the 1930s, but still very applicable today.

Tale of Two Cities – This was another reread. It has been years since I read this. On reading it a second time, I think I picked up on more of the politics involved and certain other aspects like Darnay’s identity. Not my favorite Dickens novel, but very similar to Les Miserable.

Well that’s a wrap! I feel caught up now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

How has your winter gone? What have you been reading? Thoughts on any of these books?

Anna

Looking back on 2022

Hello my lovely friends!

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

Stranger Things Steve GIF by NETFLIX

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

Let’s start with my favorites! ๐Ÿ˜‰

#9 Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico

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

Quotes –

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

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

#8 The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

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

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

Quotes –

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home”

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

“Stay gold Ponyboy. . . stay gold”

#7 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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

Quotes –

” I solemnly swear I am up to no good”

โ€œHappiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.โ€

โ€œWhat you fear most of all is โ€”fear. Very wiseโ€ฆโ€

#6 Mirror of Souls by Wayne Batson

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

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

Quotes –

“Jak Alastair Coldhollow, you are a gift from the First One, and I love you with all my heart. Your father loved you, loves you too, but he has gone missing. I have to go and find him. It’s not fair, I know to leave you so soon.”

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

Abbagael stared out over the black water. “I think I’m going to need to pray. . . a lot more” “And we will pray for you even as we return to Willowdell” Alec said. “The Maker of the stars is worthy of your trust.”

# 5 Catch me If you Can by Frank Abagnale

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

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

Quotes –

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

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

#4 Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

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

Quotes –

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

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

#3 The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Creel

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

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

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

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

#2 Boy Tales from Childhood by Ronald Dahl

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

Quotes –

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

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

#1 A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

Anna

Rereading Anne

Hello fellow Blogger Chums!

I’ve taken another rather long hiatus, and I’m Sorry about that. Life has proceeded to bring changes which take some adjusting to. My sister and I recently moved, only a few miles from where we were, but a move just the same. It was my first time which kinda stressed me out.

We have been at the new place for about a month. Due to all this, my reading kinda went into a slump. Before moving I was reading, Suns Will Rise, took me like three weeks to finish. After that I read our book club pick of Skeletons on the Zahara which was fascinating. Both of these are not light-hearted.

After those, I needed a reread! And this weather put me in the mood for Anne. So far I’ve reread the first 2 books in the series and hope to read the third soon.

Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea

By L. M. Montgomery

Genre – Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age

Rating – PG for mild peril and adventures

Synopsis – These two books tell the story of an orphan girl named Anne Shirley who has imagination and spirit to match her red hair. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are seeking to adopt a boy to help them around the farm as they are getting on in years. Along he way a mistake is made and Anne is sent to them instead. They must decide whether or not to keep her. Anne has quite a way of finding adventures and misshapes as she grows into a young lady.

My Thoughts –

This is such a sweet story to come back too. Both of these books are filled with vibrant descriptions of plants and the changing of seasons. They make for perfect summer reads.

Throughout the years I’ve read both multiple times, although I’ve read Green Gables more then Avonlea. For the longest time, I disliked Anne of Avonlea because it felt so much slower then the previous book. Plus, the whole Ms. Lavender’s romance dragged on for a while. I will say I was able to appreciate it more this go around. Mainly due to the fact that I’m a preschool teacher. So, I related to her trials with her students. It can truly be like walking a tightrope to juggle kiddos with a wide range of personalities! I love Anne’s gumption and spirit. She wants her students to excel and to take away life lessons.

There are so many fantastic characters in these novels. Anne of course is very relatable. Seems like every chapter she is getting into mischief, although mostly unintentionally on her part. She takes everything to heart and tends to crash when things don’t go as expected. There is a bit of Anne in me, especially my younger self. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Gilbert Blythe is true rival of Anne despite his attempts to appease her wounded pride. I will say that he is very patient. I mean he waits 3 years for her to forgive him, that is a true gentleman.

Matthew is my second favorite. Now, he doesn’t say much, but when he does, you better listen. He can match his sister Marilla in stubbornness. He has genuine sweetness about him and is such a hard worker.

If you are looking for a film version, I highly recommend the 80’s versions with Megan Follows. While they don’t strictly follow the book, they capture the essence. Plus, they would make for a great family movie night.

Quotes –

“”I should say not. What good would she be to us?” “We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly” (P. 29).

“Oh Marilla,” she exclaimed one Saturday morning. . . “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (P. 120).

“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet” (P. 176).

These books hold up well and they are so accessible that anyone could read them. But especially MG or YA girls. There is an innocence in these first 2 books. I’ve really enjoyed rereading and going back to Prince Edward Island. I’d love to visit someday.

Have you ever read either of these books? Do you have a favorite in the series? Who do you relate to the most?

Up Next – After finishing Anne of the Island, I might give Anna Karenina a go, but no promises there.

Anna

Quick Lit – What I’ve been Reading Lately

It feels like forever since I’ve popped on here! Feel a little bad about that. 2022 has been an interesting year so far and has lots of changes in store. I’ll be moving soon which, honestly, not sure if I’m ready for it. Also, have a family wedding soon. This brings me to my point, I’ve been doing more listening than reading. I’m still counting audiobooks in my overall reading count. For me, it has just been easier.

Without further ado, I’ll mention some books that I’ve enjoyed over the past few months.

Season 7 Nbc GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine

The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel – Read

The Magic of Ordinary Days by Anne Howard Creel

Genre – Historical Fiction

Series – Stand-a-lone novel

Rating – PG for discussion of pregnancy before marriage

Age -Adult

My Thoughts – Honestly I don’t remember what lead me to put it on my list for this year?? I saw the movie a few years ago and enjoyed it, but at the time had no idea there was a book behind it. I must have seen this book somewhere on around the blogosphere.

However, I really did love this book!! The setting is beautiful, and takes place in 1944 on a Colorado farm in the fall. Olivia and Ray really drive the novel. All Olivia wants to be an archeologist visiting far off places. However, after her mother passes, Olivia falls for a Edward who is preparing for deployment. She ends up pregnant. He father arranges a marriage with a bean farmer, Ray. While there she becomes friends with two Rose & Lorelei, Japanese Americans who are in a camp. I really liked the portrayal of Ray and Reverend Cass’s faith. They both have a simple trust in the Lord and reverence for the Bible which was nice to see.

My only dislike was that Olivia got whiny and had trouble making up her mind. I almost wished the author could have alternated every other chapter with Ray.

Maid Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

Maid by Stephanie Land

Genre – Memoir, nonfiction

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for language and domestic violence

Age – Adult

This was one of our book club’s picks for April. Stephanie’s story is fascinating, especially since I have little knowledge regarding how people on such a low income live. Maid reminded me of the Pursuit of Happiness. Some sections irked me a bit with her whole attitude toward certain things. However, she truly worked hard to provide for her daughter. My favorite parts where her stories about the different houses she cleaned. To be honest I would not do well with all the black mold she had to clean. Her client Henry was so sweet! Most of the chapters titles are names for the different houses.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

by J. K. Rowling

Genre – Fantasy

Series – 3rd book in the Harry Potter series

Rating – PG for some name calling and peril

Age – YA

re

Now, this by far was my favorite of the first three. We see the characters mature a bit and get more backstory of Hogwarts before Harry. Surprised that we got a decent Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Lupin was the mentor that Harry needed! He has a calmness about him. Honestly, I wasn’t sure about Sirius, however, he grew on me. It was sweet hearing his defense of James and Lily. Of the three kids, Ron is my fav! If I was someone in real life, I’d be Nevil Longbottom. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Well folks, that’s all I have for now!

Have you read any of these books? What’s your take on them? Favorite characters?

It’s hard to believe that April is almost here!

Up next – I wanted something easyish so am reading Hollow City, the second in Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series.

Anna

The Outsiders

Hello, again!

I know its been awhile since I’ve popped on, but excited to share the book I just finished. Back in November I was looking for a movie to watch and stumbled on The Outsiders. The plot sounded interesting so I gave it go; ended up loving the story. After the movie ended, I went and looked up the book that it was based upon. I remember seeing Hamlette @ https://theedgeoftheprecipice.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-outsiders-by-s-e-hinton.html mentioning how much she loved the book. I promptly put the book on my TBR list. Now that we are in the doldrums of February, I decided why not give it a read.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Genre – YA Fiction

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for gang violence and death

Synopsis –

Ponyboy Curtis lives with his two older brothers, Soda and Darry, who have raised him since their parents’ death. They are apart of a gang known as the greasers, who are known for living on the poor side of town and for causing trouble. Pony is a dreamer and has never quite fit in the gang, and the same goes for Johnny Pony’s best friend. After an incident, Pony and Johnny run away. Leading to Pony looking back at his life and figuring out what matters.

My Thoughts –

Wow, I ended up really loving this book!! I can already tell this will probably end up on my favorites list. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Pony and Johnny really stood out to me as characters and I fell for both hard. Johnny especially needs a big hug. I loved how the author helps us understand why they do what they do. She doesn’t put a halo around the gang, but neither does she make it too dark.

Considering she was 14 when she started writing this book, I find it incredible that Hinton created such vibrant characters. Ponyboy feels like someone you’d meet on the street. There are many families with a similar environment to Johnny’s. As we slowly understand the Socs and greasers, I loved how Pony became aware that Randy, a soc, was just a boy like him. I feel like I should talk about Sodapop and Darry. Soda has such a cheery outlook on life, which makes him very likeable.

When I watched the movie, I didn’t like Darry much. He seemed so distant and cold. However, the book makes him more human, and by the end he made sense to me. The same goes for Dally. Hated him in the movie. Yet, we see just how much Johnny means to him. Dally truly wants Pony and Johnny to remain innocent and not pick up his bad habits. He has his flaws for sure, but there is a caring side too.

Hinton’s writing style is super simple which lets the plot and characters shine. Being that the novel is only 180 pages, it runs at a clip. I kept wanting the author to slow down a bit and explain who some of the minor characters were. By the end I just wanted more time with Pony, Soda, & Darry.

Johnny’s letter brought the book to a nice close and tears to my eyes. I knew it was coming, but it still hurt.

Quotes –

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” (P. 1).

“We’re almost as close as brothers; when you grow up in a tight-knit neighborhood like ours you get to know each other real well.” (P.3)

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different.” (P.40-41).

“Darry did care about me, maybe as much as he cared about Soda, and because he cared he was trying too hard to make something of me.” (P. 98).

“”Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold . . .” The pillows seemed to sink a little, and Johnny died.” (p. 148).

Content -Super surprised that there was hardly any swearing to speak of and very little innuendo. A few comments from Dally and that’s it. Now we do see some gang violence. Johnny ends up killing a Soc to save Pony’s life. We also see fights, and injuries on both sides. Johnny sustains third degree burns across his body and breaks his back while saving kids in a fire. He does end up dying.

Conclusion –

I’m surprised I never found this book in my high school years because I know I would have loved it then. I am grateful I did end up reading The Outsiders. Gives an interesting perspective to a different world then I am used to seeing. One thing that did seem odd was having Pony like Gone with the Wind. Just seemed like an odd choice. Overall, a fascinating read! Highly recommend it!

Up Next – Honestly, I need to finish Live not by Lies, but it has been a struggle.

How is your February going? Read anything surprising? Have you read The Outsiders or seen the movie?

Anna

Review for The Book Thief

Guys, so I discovered this book via the movie several years ago and loved it!! The movie moved me. Shortly after, I read the book. I remember liking it, but preferring the movie. It’s been several years, leading to the book version fading from my mind. I’ve been wanting to reread it for about a year now. Finally, had a break in my other books and went for it. Gosh, it was so good! Better then I had remembered.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Genre – Historical fiction, WW2

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for death and language

Synopsis –

Death begins by explaining that he’s been drawn to certain humans. Their lives intrigue him. He begins the book with the ending with Liesel Meminger buried beneath rubble. Liesel is a young nine year old girl whose mother put her in the care of the foster family during World War II. After seeing her brother die, she faces nightmares. Her foster family consists of Hans & Rosa Hubermann, who couldn’t be more different.

Thoughts –

First off, I liked the book way more this second time around! I think my problem before was that I compared it so much to the movie that I didn’t fully appreciate the book’s uniqueness. The Book Thief holds some deep themes like forgiveness, loss, death, and the power of words. I was struck by the colors used throughout the book. Both death and Liesel are attracted to color and the author brings it out beautifully.

the book thief GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

If I’m honest, the character that stole my heart yet again, was Rudy! What a friend, he always went the extra mile where Liesel was concerned.

Although Hans Hubermann comes in a close second. What a great Father he is; he is a quiet and kind. The one who will sit by your side after waking from a nightmare and read with you til three in the morning. Despite the hardship and constant fear, he hides a Jewish man in his basement. Geoffrey Rush encompasses this character so well!

Also, Rosa is force to be reckoned with despite her animosity and swearing, there is heart underneath all that gruffness. I had completely forgotten the scene where she holds the accordion in her arms and prays for Hans’ safety. It showcases how we humans can be complicated, not all actions are black and white, sometimes they fall in the grey area.

The whole book focuses and brings out the emotions of this family which I love. We see the good, bad, and the ugly. Sometimes even the simplest thing like a cloud can bring a smile. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Throughout the book, we get inserts from Death and his perspective on certain people or actions. So, sometimes, the plot slows down a bit. For sure this is a character driven novel, action falls secondary. If you have a problem with knowing how the end comes out at the beginning, you might want to steer clear. We are told multiple times how the ending plays out. Normally I hate skipping to the end, to me that just spoils the surprise, but this time it didn’t bother me. The ending is also a kicker!! So sad! I so wish Rudy had gotten his kiss.

Quotes –

“It felt as though the whole world was dressed in snow. Like it had pulled it one, the way you pull on a sweater.” (p. 6).

“The Book Thief had struck for the first time – the beginning of an illustrious career” (p.29).

“Insane or not Rudy was always destined to be Liesel’s best friend. A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship” (p.48).

“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day. That was the business of hiding a jew” (p. 211).

“Why did I have to build that snowman?” Papa to his credit was adamant. “Liesel,” he said, “You had to.” (p. 316).

Content – There is a smattering of language throughout although 70% is done in German. There is death and sickness; we see villages bombed and several main characters are killed. During Rudy’s medical examination for the Nazis, he is forced to strip. This has quite an effect on him. He later tells Liesel and she ends up picturing the event.

Conclusion –

The Book Thief can be a sucker punch to the ribs at times. Yet, it is deep and beautiful too. It is definitely worth a read and will leave an impact on you. I also highly recommend the movie too! Very well done!

Up Next – Working on Women who Risk for book club.

Over to you all! How’s your fall going? Have you read The Book Thief? What are your thoughts?

~ Anna ~

Review for The Help

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

colin morgan smile GIF by BBC

Let’s get to the good stuff shall we! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Genre – Historical fiction

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for tense situations and language

Age Range – Older Teen or Adult

Synopsis –

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

My Thoughts –

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

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

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

you is kind the help GIF

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

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

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

Quotes –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion –

I really liked this book, liked the characters, the storytelling, and the setting. This book has been out for while now and people seem to either hate or love it. For me I loved it! Much of the book takes places in the summer which was very fitting. It different and at times sad to hear some of the ladies stories, but the author does it in an engaging way. All I can say is that I’d recommend it! ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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

Anna

Review for Les Miserables

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Genre – Historical Fiction, Classic

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for death & some mild innuendo

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

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

My Thoughts –

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

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

Despite all this, I did it! I did it! Mentally singing the My Fair Lady song. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion –

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

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

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

Anna

Review 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 I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Genre – Historical, coming of age, romance

Series – No

Rating – PG – for mild innuendo

Synopsis –

Cassandra has received a journal and decides to practice her speed writing by writing about her life living in a run down castle with her family. Her mother died many years ago and her father remarried a women named Topaz. Cassandra’s family has no money, and so excitement surfaces when two American bachelors move into their landowner’s estate. Rose, the sister, is determined to marry someone who has money because she is sick of being poor. As her father sinks into a miserable and forlorn state, Cassandra desperately wants to help out. Will Cassandra be able to come up with a form of income? or will these 2 Americans kick their family out for good?

My Thoughts –

I didn’t realize this until after I started this book, that it is by the author of 101 Dalmatians. I have conflicting thoughts on this book; defintatly unique with a surprising ending that I kinda liked, but also felt a little dissatisfied with it. Yet, I have to say the author did a wonderful job sweeping you into the story of this family’s life. There were a few moments that very much reminded me of Pride and Prejudice. Poor family, 2 sisters that are close, rich neighbors – you get the picture. ๐Ÿ˜‰

All the characters come across in a very real way. The story itself moves along slowly as the author takes time to describe surroundings and build characters. I liked the Mortmain family, although some of their actions were a bit annoying at times. Thankfully, nothing felt contrived though. I have to say that I liked Stephan much more then I did Simon. *Spoiler Alert * I am quite glad that Cassandra does not end up with Simon, but why did she drag Stephan along !! I didn’t really like Rose. I just couldn’t support her convictions. However, I found Mr. Mortmain to be quite comedic l and a complex character.

The plot had some very sweet moments to it, but then the characters would do something that got on my nerves. I have to say I liked it, but not so much that I truly loved the story.

The characters themselves are not Christians , so their choices can sometimes reflect that. Although, Cassandra does go to church a few times and discusses theology with the priest. There was one part where Cassandra and Rose would throw these big rituals on May Day. They would read poetry, dance around the fire, and collect flowers. It just felt odd & I cannot say I cared for it.

Violence – The reason Mr. Mortmain got sent to prison was because a neighbor saw him brandishing a cake knife at his wife. (He is truly a kind man although a bit distant and sarcastic).

Language – There really wasn’t that much, maybe a few uses of mild swearing.

Innuendo – Cassandra mentions that Topaz likes to commune with nature by walking outdoors naked. (We never see this happen, but it is mentioned a few times.) Cassandra decides to sunbathe naked when none of her family members are home. She does do this in a private part of the castle where no one could stumble upon her. It is suggested that a character made love to another character.

Conclusion –

In thinking back, I have to say the first half was good and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The second half seemed to derail a little bit with a big twist at the end. Overall I’d say a unique story with some out of the box characters. Honestly I cannot think of much more to say about it.

How is your fall going? What have you been reading? Have you heard of this book?

Anna