Review for The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

Genre – Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Series – Standalone novel

Rating – PG – Thematic elements

Synopsis –

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.

Conclusion –

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.

Review for The Tale of Briar Bank

The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Historical fiction, Mystery, Fantasy

Series – 5th book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – Peril and mild violence

Synopsis –

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.

Conclusion –

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!!

6 Movies and Shows I’ve watched recently

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/

1 Onward

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.

#2 Newsies

Genre – Musical, Historical

Rating – PG – Mild Language

Synopsis –

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

Synopsis –

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.

#4 Merlin

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.

Synopsis –

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.

#5 1917

Genre – War, Historical, based on true events

Rating – R – Strong language and violence

Synopsis –

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!

Lastly,

#6 Lost

Lost - The Complete First Season

Genre – Adventure, Mystery, Survival

Rating – This one is little bit of a mixed bag of marbles, Some episodes are PG while others are TV14.

Synopsis –

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?

Review of The Tale of Hawthorn House

The Tale of Hawthorn House by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction, Adult

Series – 4th in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – for mild language and drama

Synopsis –

During a summer festival, baby Flora suddenly appears on Miss Potter’s doorstep. The villagers begin a search for the Flora’s parents, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Jemima Puddle-duck tries her hand at motherhood. Will Miss Potter be able to get down to the bottom of the mystery?

My thoughts –

Compared to the first three books, this one felt a little repetitive. There was a lot of recapping what had happened in previous books. From the start of the book, you have a pretty good idea where its headed. Not really any surprises.

Now, its not all bad. There is still some magic to the quaint village of Sawrey. I enjoyed the bit about the town’s meddling in personal affairs and chuckled at how the inhabitants had decided on who Miss Potter would marry.

Now I did struggle with the whole Thorn Folk. In The Tale of Holly How, the fairies felt real and not pushed on you. While here, I feel forced to believe that these Thorn Folk exist. Maybe it was the way the author used them, but I did not care for it.

To me the whole animal side-plot works for me. I enjoy hearing the animals talk among themselves about the big folk. I enjoy hearing about their adventures. Although Jemima could be annoying at times. I struggled to believe that she would run off with a fox. It connects the stories Beatrix Potter wrote to this series.

Violence – None

Innuendo – At the beginning, it is insinuated that a character had a baby out of wedlock, but that turns out not to be the case.

Language – A few mild curse words, maybe 4 at the most.

Conclusion –

I appreciate having a series of books that are clean and aren’t filled with a bunch of superfluous content. Although, this addition to the series wasn’t up to par as the previous books were, it still had that small town charm. I’m hoping the rest of the series will improve.

Review for Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Genre – Historical fiction, YA

Rating – PG-13 for maritime disaster and violence

Synopsis –

For this book, I’m going to quote the book’s description

“Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four Secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war. As Thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.”

My thoughts –

This book … I just cannot get it out of my head!!! I finished it the other day and read the ending twice! This is a deep look at a tragedy that occured at the end of WWII.

Ok, let’s start with the characters. They are well drawn out and the author made them very relatable. I had to pause at a point in the book where a character sacrificed themselves. Ugh! So sad, but lifelike. There are four main characters that you get to know. Its written from the view of four young adults. I grew to love three of the main. The fourth character you are not supposed to like. I don’t know how the author did it. The chapters are so short, yet I felt like I was going through everything that the characters went through.

The plot was quick paced and yet, well developed. This was a book I could not put down!! I loved that the author started us midway through the refugees escape to the sea. The secrets came out slowly; we learned about their past bit by bit. Which honestly worked for me. I wished we could have had more time on the ship, actually I wish we could have had more time after the wreck. The book felt too short. I wanted more!!

Some characters stuck out to me more then others. Florian, Joana, and Ingrid. These were my top three, but the wondering boy and the shoe poet were great as well! The way it was written reminded me of The Book Thief which I loved!

This story is a sad, heartbreaking tale of survival and escape.

Language – There were a few choice words used, but mostly stuff you would hear in a PG TV show.

Innuendo – Two or three kisses. Also at the start of the book, Emilia is pregnant. Now, we do find out how it happens. The author gives us enough detail that we can read between the lines. It is sad and awful, but probably happened a lot during this time in history. Note- It is very brief and not at all the character’s fault.

Violence – One characters shoots a Russian soldier to safe another character. Women shoots a German. We hear about dead bodies that they on the road due to frostbite. A character has shrapnel in his side. Many people die during the boat sinking. Characters try to save others who are swimming the ocean, but some die due to hypothermia. A person tries to get off the sinking ship by jumping into ocean and land on part of the ship. Most of it not graphic, but is mentioned.

I should mention that some characters lie about their identity. One character steals an identity paper off of a dead person. Another character sole an artifact from the Germans.

Conclusion –

Something about this book just drew me in. The characters were flawed and lifelike that I felt like I was there with them. This story is a sad, heartbreaking tale of survival and escape. I wonder why it is labeled YA? I feel like adults would get a lot out of this. If you don’t mind sad historical fiction, I would highly recommend this!

What are your thoughts? Have you read any WWII fiction? If so, what are some of your favorites? Did you like/dislike this book?

Anna

Review for The Tale of Hill Top Farm

The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Cozy British Mystery

Age Range – Anyone

Series – 1st book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Synopsis –

The story starts with a death in the small community of Sawrey. This causes a crisis for the villagers as the woman who died was going to host the newcomer, Ms. Potter, to the village. Ms. Potter has just bought the land of Hill Top Farm, and she is hoping to get some inspiration for her books. As the villagers try to figure out where to put Ms. Potter, things start disappearing from several local establishments. Ms. Potter must eventually decide whether she will become involved in the small village or go back home to her parents?

My Thoughts –

This book has all the charm of the British countryside. The plot is a bit slower as it takes time to introduce all the characters, but it is well worth it. Not so much a mystery as a fictional account of what it might have been like for Beatrix Potter to move away from her family. The author ensures that we know who the real people are in the story, and at the back of the book gives a chronological account of Beatrix Potter’s life at Hill Top Farm.

The author did something unique by having not only people in the story, but animals as well. The animals can talk among themselves and not to people. Several of the animals are real pets that Beatrix Potter had. The animals actually are quite the investigators of the story. It gives the book a touch of fantasy which really fits.

Another thing I liked was the characters. I know I say that about almost every book, but I truly mean it here. All the characters have a role to play in this tiny community. Whether it be the vicar, the constable, or the head teacher. The author lets us hear from a variety of perspectives, although the main voice belongs to Ms. Potter. There is a vary poignant moment between the vicar and an ill character which shows how much he cares for everyone.

Negative content –

  • Violence – One character dies of natural causes (off the page) and a character stumbles and breaks her leg
  • Language – None
  • Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

I am eager to read the rest of this series as it was amazing. It is the perfect fall book. If you are interested in more character development and less mystery, then this might be the book for you. It truly brought the world of Beatrix Potter to life and makes me want to go back and read her children’s stories.

I cannot wait to hear your thoughts!!

Anna