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 by Markus Zusak
Genre – Historical fiction, WW2
Series – No
Rating – PG-13 for death and language
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.
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.
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. 😉
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.
“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.
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?
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.
Let’s get to the good stuff shall we! 😉
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Genre – Historical fiction
Series – No
Rating – PG-13 for tense situations and language
Age Range – Older Teen or Adult
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.
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.
“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.
I really liked this book, liked the characters, the storytelling, and the setting. This book has been out for while now and people seem to either hate or love it. For me I loved it! Much of the book takes places in the summer which was very fitting. It different and at times sad to hear some of the ladies stories, but the author does it in an engaging way. All I can say is that I’d recommend it! 🙂
Up Next – I will be starting Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.
Cannot wait to hear from you!! What book are you reading? Do you like historical fiction? Have you read/watched The Help? What are your thoughts?
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.*
Despite all this, I did it! I did it! Mentally singing the My Fair Lady song. 😉
There are so many characters woven throughout the novel, some play minor roles and are only in a small percentage of the book. So, I’m just going to mention some of my favorites. First, Jean Valjean. His developmental arc is amazing!! His story is heartbreaking, and shows how much prison can change a person. His transformation into Monsieur Madeleine is unique in that he does it to keep his vow. He uses the money he made to impact and support the town of Montreuil-sur-mer. He builds workhouses to create jobs. But all it takes is one event to bring that crashing down. I loved that Hugo gave us a look into Valjean’s mind and the turmoil he goes through. Love and forgiveness can truly impact a person’s life.
Next, I was surprised at how much I liked Marius in the book. Hugo gives him a bit more backbone as opposed to some of the movies where he is a bit wishy-washy. His love for Cosette is sweet and innocent. I mean they go a whole year without having said one word to each other and just seeing other from a distance. I got frustrated with his constant endeavor to repay the man who saved his father’s life despite knowing that Thenardier is a scoundrel.
There are two minor characters that I loved as well – Gavroche and Enjolras. Gavroche is the forgotten son of Madame Thenardier. He lives on the street, but has generally happy attitude. Unbeknownst to him, he gives his brothers a safe night . While helping at the barricade, Gavroche sacrifices himself to retrieve ammo. Enjolras on the other hand was rich leader of the ABC society. He sought justice and liberty for the people and yet was aloof and distant from his comrades. I found him intriguing and a bit odd.
Although Hugo can be a long-winded writer, he does know how to draw the reader in to the character’s lives. The sections that revolved around plot I enjoyed quite a bit, it was the parts in between that could drag on forever. I kept wanting Hugo to make his point already. He covers everything from politics to his views on religion, and the sewer system as well as the whole battle of Waterloo.
However I do this is a book that everyone should read once in their lifetime. Jean Valjean’s story alone is worth the 1,200 pages. I teared up at the when when Marius realized just how wrong he was about him. Its an expansive story that covers a lot of territory. It took Hugo more then 20 years to write it and it shows. He gives you quite a bit to think about.
“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.
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.
Rating – PG -13 for battles, violence and innuendo
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.
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?
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. 😉
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.
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?
Recently I just haven’t had as much time to read as I would like, yet I have just finished 2 mysteries that were quite good! I enjoyed both, but for different reasons & and will give a mini review on both.
First, Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse.
Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction
Series – Second book in the Mycroft and Sherlock series
Rating – PG -13 for violence & drug use
Synopsis – Mycroft has just started working high up in the British government and has saved the queen on a previous occasion when a series of murders occurs. At first he is not interested, but when Sherlock’s professor becomes involved and a few close calls, Mycroft begins to suspect that something is brewing. Sherlock meanwhile has secretly taken on this case as his budding investigative powers lead him into the lion’s den. Mycroft and Sherlock work together to find out who is behind these awful murders.
My Thoughts – First, I really liked the authors take on younger versions of Mycroft and Sherlock. I haven’t read the first book as I had no idea this was series, but there was enough information that I didn’t feel too lost. I preferred Sherlock’s escapades for I found Mycroft’s character not as interesting. Plus Sherlock has always been a favorite character of mine. 😉 I liked Douglas with his orphanage for boys & appreciated his values. Nice to see Douglas endeavoring to keep his son’s memory by helping others in need. Charles and George were sweet and wanted to hear more of their story.
While the beginning was a wee bit slow, it began to pick up midway through. The action was spread out and did a decent job keeping the pace going, Although the conclusion felt a little off to me. It felt just a little anti-climatic. Oh, well. Overall I enjoyed it and liked several of the characters.
Content – Only a handful of mild uses of language. Really pretty minimal. Violence was mostly characters seeing an already dead body or a description of how they were killed. A couple mentions of genitals getting cut off. Later we learn this is a ritual done in Asia to teach others a lesson. There is a fight scene were a couple characters get beat up. The other content issue is drug use. It is a main theme as the bad guys test drugs on young children before shipping it to users. Sherlock enters a drug den and is injected multiple times.
Now for the second mystery!
The Religious Body by Catherine Aird
Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction
Series – First book in the C. D. Sloan mysteries
Rating – PG – Mild violence
Synopsis – When a nun is thought to have been murdered in the convent of St. Anselm, Inspector Sloan is called in. Sister Anne is found at the bottom cellar. The problem for Sloan is that the Nuns are a very quiet group and have given up everything worldly to live for God. Sloan begins diving into Sister Anne’s past and interrogating the others in the convent. Will Sloan be able to get to the bottom before anyone else dies?
My Thoughts – This was a well done mystery. For the longest time, I thought someone was the culprit, but I was proved wrong. 😉 Anyway, this was really clean and breath of fresh air. Set after WWII, it has a lot going for it. I like Sloan and his partner Crosby. They were a good pair that reminded me of a couple characters from the show Foyle’s War. While there isn’t much character development, the focus was on introducing the characters and solving the mystery. It was a pretty short book less then 200 p. We also get to see things from the sister’s perspectives and what their life was like. So pacing was pretty quick and it flowed really well for my tastes. I think that I will probably continue this series and see where it goes.
Content – Rare mild language, violence was again after the character had died. She is hit on the back of the head. The villain tries to kill another nun, but is stopped by inspector. Maybe a couple mentions of blood on her clothes. Other then that it is really clean.
Conclusion – So these are a few books that I have finished. It feels so good to finish a book!! Slowly, but surly I am ticking off books on my list. I think I only have maybe 2 or 3 left!! Yea!!! My next book will be My Dog Skip. I recently watched this movie and really enjoyed it! Then found out there was a book behind it so yeah, looking forward to that!!
What books have you read recently? Do you enjoy mysteries? Read any Sherlock Holmes pastiches? What is your favorite?
Kate and her father are the musicians for princess Elizabeth who is quietly residing at Hatfield house after her sister’s ascension to the throne. Yet, trouble is brewing when a courier from the Queen suddenly appears with a dead servant. He demands to search the premise in search of banned religious materials. Kate’s life becomes difficult, but Elizabeth trusts Kate to find out who killed the servant. Will Kate be able to figure out what is going on before it is too late?
My Thoughts –
Hmm. What to say about this book??!! I cannot say that I really liked this book; however there were some good parts to it. I enjoyed the whole history behind princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey as it had been a while since I had read about this time period. So it was nice to step back in and learn a little bit about the political upheaval of this time. The author also does a decent job of characterizing Elizabeth and Anthony.
Nevertheless I do have a couple quibbles. First, the writing style. The majority of the language in the book is very modern, and didn’t feel right for England in 1558. I get that writing in older English can be tricky to write, but I feel like the author could have tried to add some phrases used back in that time period to make it less modern sounding.
Secondly, I do not like the main character. Maybe that is just me, but she felt like every other heroine in a cozy mystery. Nothing really stood her apart for me. I wanted to like Kate, but I just couldn’t.
There were several good things about Murder at Hatfield House. It held by attention enough that I cruised through this novel in a little over a day. The plot moved along at a decent pace, and there were some good themes like kindness and standing up for what is right. I enjoyed the descriptions of how Protestantism was changing England politically and how it varied from Catholicism. The mystery started out quite interesting, but began to wobble by the end. The conclusion confused me a bit, and overall the book was fairly clean which I appreciated.
Language – Infrequent mild language, with a couple exclamations of “God’s wounds” or other similar phrases.
Violence – Overall, pretty mild. Several characters are killed by arrows. A few mentions of blood either on clothes or the ground. A character gets shoved and left in a locked room.
Innuendo – Two kisses on the hand (pretty common for back then) and a bit about developing feelings for character.
Carmack wrote about an interesting time in history, and there is lots to learn from it. There were a few characters that I liked, but most felt flat to me. This novel would make for a nice beach read when you want something light and breezy. Murder at Hatfield House is aimed more at YA age range as main character is 18. Give this a go if you enjoy the Elizabethan era, or are looking for a new cozy series.
Cannot wait to hear how you all are doing!! Do you enjoy cozy mysteries? How is your June going? What Have you been reading lately?
Valancy Stirling is tired of being told what to do. She lives with her mother and her aunt who prefer nothing to change. They do not even allow Valancy to move things around her room. So on Valancy’s 29 birthday she decides to change things up a bit. She gives up pretending to enjoy things she hates, and do things in her own way. Which may lead to Valancy finding her own Blue Castle. Will her family be able to understand her?
My thoughts –
I really enjoyed this novel!! It felt different then the Anne series. I almost thought it was written by a different writer. The Blue Castle is aimed at adults and has more of a grown up feel to it. It also takes place after the Anne books as things are more modern. Several characters have cars and there are movies playing as well.
I really connected with Valancy’s character. She feels like she has done nothing productive and for her self in her life. Her family is overbearing and she is the women who is always in the shadows. Then she gets a letter that changes everything and gives Valancy a new look on life. I liked Valancy’s growth and change throughout the story. She takes a step and helps someone else who is suffering. She even makes quit a sacrifice for someone she loves. I could just relate to this story.
There are many descriptions of nature and scenery. It felt like you were outdoors, fishing and exploring with these characters.
There is quite a variety of interesting characters thrown into this story. I actually liked Roaring Abel, despite his drinking. He was one of the few honest characters and told it like it is. Cissy is such a sweet character. She has had such a hard life and I loved how Valancy befriends her. Barney was odd. It took a while to actually like him as a character. Towards the end though, he and Valancy had a strong relationship.
Although the plot was a little slow, there was some charm to it. There is not much action and mostly all character driven. It was nice to have a book that was about normal everyday events, but some sections were a wee bit boring. The end has a couple firecrackers that were surprising. Someone should make this into a TV series or movie.
Language – Mentions of people swearing, no actual words though. Maybe 2 uses of mild language.
Violence – None
Innuendo – Valancy attends a back woods party where there is drinking and dancing. A couple men try to force her to dance with them. Barney ends up coming in and saving Valancy. The town busybodies gossip about Valancy and Barney. Two characters kiss and get married.
If you love the Anne series and are looking for something with a similar feel, I would recommend this book!! It has a different flavor to it, but it is a sweet story. Sometimes you need an uplifting book like this.
Series – 5th book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter
Rating – PG – Peril and mild violence
Beatrix Potter has returned to her house at Hill Top farm. She is looking forward to spending some time in the country. Yet, when she arrives, the town is in an uproar. Mr. Wickstead has met an untimely death by the form of a tree. The villagers believe it is a curse, while Constable Braithwaite is not so sure. He has noticed some unusual marking on the tree. One of the witnesses to the event is a badger named Bailey, but of course he has no way of telling the humans what exactly he saw. Will Miss Potter be able to get to the bottom of this mystery before it is too late?
My Thoughts –
I have so enjoyed this series!! And this book is one of the better ones. The previous book, The Tale of Hawthorn House, was bit odd and disjointed. The Tale of Briar Bank flowed much better and the animals were much more likeable. There was Norse theme throughout which I liked. I have always enjoyed Norse history/mythology. One of the animals we are introduced to is a dragon named Thorvaald. He was so sweet and odd. It was hard not to like him.
Another new element is Miss Potter and Mr. Heelis’s blossoming friendship. Many years before Miss Potter’s fiance had died quiet suddenly and ever since she has been grieving her loss. So it was wonderful to see her start to move on after four books. 🙂
The villagers are so quirky and odd. You have the usual gossip that spreads like wildfire and villagers falsely believing characters are a couple. They complement their town so well. The author does a wonderful job bringing this English countryside to life. You can picture the lakes and hills in your head. It reminds me a bit of the characters in the BBC show Doc Marin.
The author also breaks the third person wall and speaks right to the reader. She does this frequently throughout the book which I enjoyed. It made it seem like we were co-conspirators invading the town. 😉 Albert would tell the reader that, “So you and I shall not stand idly by and wait whilst Will examines the photographs and eats his lunch. Instead we shall take ourselves up to The Brockery. . .” (Albert, p. 144). I think this is a great way to connect to readers, especially when done the right way.
Albert, Susan Wittig. The Tale of Briar Bank. Berkley Publishing Group, New York. 2008.
Language – None
Violence – A character is killed by the top of a tree. A dragon tries to hurt a badger by its fire. Badger gets singed arm.
Innuendo – The villagers believe that 2 characters are a couple and possibly engaged. (all false). Two different characters begin to develop a romantic relationship. Very mild.
This was a lovely addition to the series. It was delightful to be able to visit the small town of Near Sawrey again. I highly recommend this series as it is something the whole family could enjoy. The author does a great job of keeping them pretty clean which is wonderful. Plus you get to learn some of the history surrounding Beatrix Potter.
Have you read any book in this series? What are you currently reading? Cannot wait to hear from you all!!
As I am still reading Atlas Shrugged (such a long book), I figured I would do a post about some movies/shows that I have been watching. I’ll start out with some family-friendly options, then move on to some more adult. I have done one of these posts before back in 2019. Link here – http://www.pagestoremember.com/2019/07/21/my-current-top-5-tv-shows/
Genre – Fantasy/family
Rating – PG
Synopsis- In a time when magic has all but disappeared, there lives 2 elf brothers Ian and Barley. Ian is a quiet and reserved high schooler who just wants to fit in, while his brother, Barley, is a fun-loving geek. They embark on a quest to bring back their dad for a day.
My Thoughts –
This was such a cute movie!! There were several interesting themes throughout. First, family! Both of the parents are shown in a great light, very supportive of their children. In a lot of movies, parents are shown to be stupid or not able to understand what their children are going through. So I appreciated having parents who actually care. Second theme, becoming who you are meant to be. Both Ian and Barley are teenagers and trying to figure out how they fit into the world. I am not going to say much more as I don’t want to spoil it.
Content – Overall this movie is pretty clean. Definitely one for a family movie night. There is some mild cartoon violence and a bit of name calling, but surprisingly not a lot of potty humor. Also a bit sad as talking about how to deal with someone who has passed. Side note- there is some use of magic and using a spell.
Moving on to number 2.
Genre – Musical, Historical
Rating – PG – Mild Language
Jack Kelly is the leader of the Newsies who make a living by selling papers. When Pulitzer decides to raise the price of the papers, the Newsies go on strike. With the help of Davey and Katherine, they get an article in the papers. Will that be enough to end the strike?
My Thoughts –
So a couple years ago I saw the original 1992 Newsies movie and loved it. Later on I found out there was a Broadway version available. Last fall I finally watched it, and it was AMAZING!! A really well done musical! The new numbers the added really helped, and I liked how the gave Jack a bit more back story.
The characters are fantastic and it is based on a true story. The first time I saw it, I didn’t care for Katherine, but now that I have re-watched it a several times, she has grown on me. Jeremy Jordan aka. Jack Kelly can really sing. This would also make for great family movie night!!
Content – Not much there. Jack and Davey use some mild language a couple times. There are a couple fights, but its all choreographed and more cheesy. Characters kiss a few times. A mention of girls not wearing pants (they were in a custom with tights).
3 White Collar
Genre – Crime/Drama/Comedy
Rating – PG – for violence and language
Neal Caffery is a conman and a good one at that. He also is a thief who steals/forges artwork. In a deal to reduce his jail time, Neal works for an FBI agent, Peter Burke, to solve cases and catch other criminals. Neal might just make a few friends along the way.
My Thoughts –
This is a clever and fresh show! It has a fast-moving pace, but it also gives you a look into the white collar crime division. It looks at the possibility of can you reform a conman/thief. I gotta say that this is one of the few shows that highlights a positive marriage. Peter Burke and his wife are shown in a great light. They talk about what is going on in each other’s lives and truly care for one another.
For me I really wanted Neal to come clean and be truly reformed, but it is also really neat to see how he pulls off heists. I’m giving a shout out to Mozzie who is one of the best characters on the show. He provides some much needed comedic relieve. 🙂 Also as a side note I have only seen up through season 4. I am hoping to finish this eventually.
Content – For a show about the FBI, there is not much violence. Yes, there are threats and kidnapping, but its kept pretty tame. From what I remember there is some language, but again not a ton. There are a few episodes where they try to spice it up and give Neal a girlfriend. So a couple scenes that you can fast forward through. I think there might have been one episode we skipped entirely. Note- in season 2 or 3 we find out that a character is a lesbian. I think her partner is only shown in 2-3 episodes, but just a heads up. I don’t agree with how this character lives, but it is only a minor side-line. Overall a fairly clean show, probably more for teens on up.
Genre – Fantasy, Adventure, Drama
Rating- PG – Peril, violence, scary creatures Also on amazon it says its TV14, I am not exactly sure why. I think most of the series is within the realm of PG.
The story takes places before Arthur is king and before Merlin is the famous wizard. King Uther Pendragon has outlawed the use of magic to protect his kingdom. Merlin comes to Camelot in order to hide. He becomes an assistant to Gaius, a doctor. Slowly, it is revealed that Merlin has magical powers. Gaius takes him under his wing and trains him to use these powers for good. Meanwhile, Prince Arthur is a stuck up brat who is training for when he becomes king. Eventually, it is revealed that Merlin and Arthur are connected they impacted each other’s destiny. Will these two be able to come together and fight for what is right?
My Thoughts –
I have always loved the Arthurian legend, and I have a soft spot for fantasy. This brings together the best of both worlds. I just found this series back in March. So I have only made it through the first 2 seasons. Now, it definitely gives the tales a new perspective. As most of the stories are about Arthur when he is king. So don’t except it to follow the books. 😉
I love Merlin and Arthur’s relationship. It reminds me of the relationship in Sherlock between Holmes and Watson. They have a fun banter back and forth with many witty remarks. Also Gaius has a lot of wisdom and is a father figure to Merlin. Uther I go back and forth on. He can be such an idiot some time, but then in some episodes we see his love for Arthur and Morgana. Now Morgana is different story. Since I have read/heard some of the legends, I kinda knew where she was headed. Gwen is a great role model, she is sweet, caring, and wants to make a difference in the world.
Now I normally don’t care for books/movies with magic in them, but I have read a few of the books about Merlin and Arthur, so I knew what to expect. This use of magic is a little different. It shows the fight for good /evil. Merlin only uses his magic to save people, mostly Arthur. He also is not showy about it. He doesn’t take the credit he deserves, but stays in the shadows.
Content – Now I can only say what was in season 1&2, but overall not too bad. Only occasional mild language. Some episodes don’t have any. Any violence is mostly cheesy fight scenes with no wounds shown. There are some tense moments where characters are in peril/dying. The ladies sometimes where some low dresses. Several characters are put under a spell that makes them fall in love. A couple characters kiss and talk about falling in love. I think this is another show that will appeal more to teens on up.
Genre – War, Historical, based on true events
Rating – R – Strong language and violence
Lance Corporal William Schofield and Lieutenant Blake embark on a dangerous mission. From reconnaissance the ally army believes that the Germans have retreated. So Schofield and Blake are commanded by a general to take a message to the Second Battalion that the next morning’s attack is called off. Blake is told that his brother is in the Second Battalion so it becomes a personal matter. If they don’t make it in time, the Germans will slaughter the Battalion.
My Thoughts –
For the most part I stay away from R movies, but when I saw the trailer, this one peaked my interest. It had several actors that I had seen in other movies and the story sounded interesting. Now I looked up the Pluggedin review before I watched this. Use your own judgement on whether to watch or not.
Not gonna lie, but it was amazing!! The story was well told, and the director shot this movie in what looks like 1 continuous shot. I think there were a handful to hidden breaks, but if an actor messed up a line, they would have to go back to the beginning of the scene. The characters had such an emotional journey, that you really felt for them. I felt that it had a journey feel to it, that reminded a bit of The Lord of the Rings. One character in particular showed kindness and determination. I enjoyed it so much that I have seen it twice: once in theaters, once with the family.
It takes place at a sad time in history, and it shows us how war can change us. It a story about loss and what wars can take from us. I felt that it depicted war fairly realistically. We see the characters go hungry, march through mud, and talk of what they miss.
Content- There was some strong language, especially at the beginning as one character has quite the foul mouth,(I’m looking at you Moriarty) but after that it becomes more sporadic. Honestly, there isn’t a ton of dialogue, more focused on the journey. Also, surprisingly there isn’t really a battle scene. Yes, we do see some dead bodies or injured soldiers, but the fighting is more one-on-one combat. Several characters are shot at or stabbed. One scene where we see a medical tent full of injured soldiers. I will say that the violence wasn’t gratuitous. Also no sexual content at all.
Side note – If you love soundtracks, 1917, has a great soundtrack!
Genre – Adventure, Mystery, Survival
Rating – This one is little bit of a mixed bag of marbles, Some episodes are PG while others are TV14.
This is a hard show to write a synopsis for as it is so complex. I will give my best go at it. 🙂 It starts off with a plane crash on a isolated island. There are roughly 40 survivors who try to set up a camp and figure out a way off the island. We slowly find out who the survivors are, and how they come to this island. The survivors fight a monster, wild animals, and their biggest threat, the Others. Will they ever make it off the island?
My Thoughts –
Just so you know this is a thinking show. There are many complex layers to this. I would really recommend starting at the beginning, as each episode gives you a little bit more info on what’s going on. Also, I would take this in smaller chunks. Characters who you don’t think matter, end up playing an important part later on. There are main characters who die, so if you don’t like shows that kill off characters, skip this one.
So far, I have really enjoyed this one!! We are currently in season 5. So I can not tell you whether I liked the end or not. There are so many interesting elements. The mystery surrounding the island, is slooowlyy explained. If you have seen Stranger Things, take that and multiply it’s slowness. Yet, it also a reason I like it. It makes you want to keep watching just to figure out what happens.
The characters in the show are also really fascinating. First, they all have flaws!! Every character comes to the island with baggage, whether that be an addiction, workaholic, or a crime record. So don’t expect the characters to be sweet. They do grow and change throughout. There was a few characters I hated, Jin, Sawyer, Locke, to name a few, but they do change for the better. There are some characters you cannot but help love them, Charlie, Desmond, Hurley, and Jack.
I will give a heads up that this show does lots and lots of flashbacks/flash forwards. It takes some getting used to, but overall it helps develop the characters. I would say that I really loved seasons 1&2. Season 4 was also really interesting.
Content – So, to start, the first 2 episodes could definitely be considered scary/gory. So if you can get past that, you start to get some answers and the violence goes way down. People get shot, stabbed, and die. After the first couple episodes, not much blood shown, except for scraps and cuts. Two women go into labor, nothing shown. There is some language, but again varies from episode to episode. Sawyer is the biggest culprit, but mostly mild language. Two cases of infidelity. In one case the truth does come out, and the couple becomes better afterwards. The other case ends in divorce. In season 1 &2 we see ladies in bikinis/tank tops a couple times. There are several couples throughout the show. So there are several kisses. There were a couple scenes we skipped through, mostly dealing with Sawyer.
These are a couple shows that I have been watching during quarantine. What have you been watching? Have you seen any of these shows? If so, what are some of your favorite characters?