Review for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Middle-grade, Christian fiction, fantasy

Series – 3rd in The Chronicles of Narnia series

Rating – PG for fantasy violence and mild language

Synopsis –

Edmund and Lucy are sent to stay with their aunt and uncle for the summer. They are both dreading it as their cousin Eustace is a brat. Surprisingly, during their stay there, they are transported to Narnia. Edmund and Lucy are rejoiced to meet up with King Caspian, who they met on their previous trip to Narnia. Caspian is out searching for the 7 lost lords who were banished in Miraz’s reign. Will the Pevensie’s be able to help Caspian find the missing lords?

My thoughts –

This is one of my favorite books in this series. Its filled with adventure, fantastical creatures, and redemption. In my opinion this book has faster pace compared to the previous two books. It is packed with a lot of adventures in a short book. Prince Caspian, on the other hand, is focused more on developing the characters.

There is a myriad of different characters. More so then in Prince Caspian. I remember when my mom read this years ago, loving the Dufflepuds. I still thought the Dufflepuds were hilarious during this reread!! I also remember loving Eustace’s character arc. Eustace is one of my favorite characters. For some reason I really like him as a character more so then the Pevensies. Plus there are dragons!! Who doesn’t love dragons!!

The plot is quite a bit different from the movie. I do like the movie, but is cuts some of the best scenes and messes with the timeline of events. Yet, I think they cast Eustace perfectly. Will Poulter nailed the complaining, whining, and selfish cousin. The way the movie pulled off his development was great. Especially the end! 😉

I loved how Eustace’s redemption showed that we cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we try. He needed Aslan to do the hard work of cleansing him. Very reminiscent of a believer accepting Christ and the transformation that follows. Despite being cleansed by Aslan, Eustace would still sometimes revert back to his old self. This is just like a Christian’s walk. We are eventually going to mess up. We are not perfect. Anyway, I just thought this was a good reminder.

Violence –

Very little, a slave trader captures some characters and endeavors to sell them. (He treats them well). There are a couple sword fights, no real injuries. A character gets sea sick. 3 characters are put to sleep after trying hurt one another. A sea monster attacks the ship. One character falls overboard.

Language – Roughly 5 uses of mild language. Same word used.

Innuendo – None, a mention of a character getting married.

Conclusion –

It has been so much fun to go back and reread these books!! It makes me want to go back and re-watch the movies. I love the characters in this book and the whole adventure on the high seas feel to it. Adventures are funny things. You never know where it will take you or where you will end up. I highly recommend The Chronicles of Narnia to anyone!

Have you read these books? If so, which one is your favorite? Do you like Eustace?

Anna

Review for Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Genre – YA fiction, Contemporary

Series – There are a few characters from some of his previous book, but it is Stand-alone.

Rating – PG – mild language and mild innuendo

Synopsis –

Jack’s parents have decided to foster a boy named Joseph, who has a messy past. He has been to prison, hurt a teacher, and has a daughter. Joseph has gone through things that no 14 year old should go through. Yet, the Hurd’s still want to foster him. Will Joseph and Jack get along? Will the Hurd’s be able to help Joseph?

My Thoughts –

First, I want to mention that, yeah, a 14 year old had a daughter. This all happened in the past so we only get bits and pieces of what happened. I don’t support what Joseph did in any way, but the author does a great job dealing with this topic.

It is a short book only about 200 p. So a easy read. Honestly, it was a breathe of fresh air compared to Atlas Shrugged. Middle-grade fiction can pack a lot in a tiny package. I read this in 2 days. Well, the first chapter on like Tuesday, then read the rest on Wednesday.

I loved this one!! Schmidt does a great job writing from a 12 year old’s perspective!! I had previously listened to 2 other books by this author: Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. Both were amazing! They take place back in the late 60s. He makes his characters believable which I love. He also sprinkles bits of humor throughout.

The characters were so well done! I love it when authors show parents in a positive light. In Orbiting Jupiter, the parents are so supportive of Jack and Joseph. They want to make a difference in Joseph’s life, and give him something he never had: a loving home. Also Mr. D’Ulney was such a great teacher. He found something Joseph was good at and decided to water that talent. Coach Swieteck is from Okay for Now. It was so neat to see him in this book, although it is a small appearance.

It took me a while to like Joseph as a character. Schmidt only had Joseph talk a handful of times. Most of what we find out about Joseph is from Jack’s perspective. It made me so happy that Joseph loved Jupiter and wanted to be apart of her life!

I would not say this is a Christian book, but there was one scene where the family went to church on Christmas. We hear how Jesus was born. A character asks how can God allow bad things to happen. We see the difference in Joseph’s life after meeting Jack and his family. First, sin entered the world though humans, not though God. Also, God and use hard times and the sinful choices we make for good. If we give our life to him, we can be transformed. While this wasn’t in the book per se, but I think it still applies.

Overall the plot is super simple. Joseph moving in and his stay with the Hurd’s, but it works so well!! Not gonna lie, the ending surprised me. It brought tears to my eyes. At first, I was mad at the author, but once I read the end, it was worth it.

Language – Mild language, really only used maybe 4 times. Also there is a brief conversation about freezing your balls off. (Boys talking about falling in a river) only a few sentences. A couple mentions of Jack hearing words he is not allowed to say.

Violence – We find out gradually that Joseph’s dad abused him. During a conversation Joseph had, he talked about how his face was bruised. That is about it. Not detailed, but just enough to know it happened. The author showed things, instead of telling them. Also, there is a fight at school which leads to a couple characters with bruises and a bloody nose.

Two characters fall into a river. Its a rather tense moment. Jack says he say a dog drown in the river once. Joseph has a scar the runs from his side all the way down to his knee. Also there’s a car accident with a few character’s deaths.

Innuendo – Very tastefully done. Once kiss mentioned. We find out in the first sentence that Joseph has a daughter. Joseph went to Madeline’s house over a summer when her parents were not home. A little bit of talk about falling in love.

Conclusion –

While there are a few content issues, I really enjoyed it!! I probably wouldn’t give this to a middle schooler, despite the fact, that that is the target range. There were many positives elements that made up for the content issues. Overall, I think Orbiting Jupiter was well worth the read! In fact I read bits of it twice! Just goes to show you how much I liked it. 😉 Bring some Kleenex as its a tearjerker.

Have you read any book by Gary D. Schmidt? What are your favorites? Do you like Orbiting Jupiter?

Review for Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Christian fiction, Middle-grade, fantasy

Series – 2nd book in the Chronicles of Narnia

Rating – PG for mild peril

Synopsis –

This book picks up 1 year after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Pevensie children are preparing to leave for their various schools. When suddenly, they are pulled back into Narnia. They find it a much wilder place since they last left. They find out that the rightful king (Prince Caspian) is on the run from his uncle Miraz who is trying to kill him. Caspian is assembling an army of old Narnians at the stone table. Will the Pevensie children be able to aide Caspian in taking back his throne?

My thoughts –

It has been a long time since I actually read the Chronicles of Narnia. Last spring I reread the Lord of the Rings, so I figured now that I have some extra time, why not reread Narnia. I started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and was surprised to find that the movie (which I have seen like a billion times) stayed pretty close to the book. So this week I picked up Prince Caspian. I had forgotten a lot of the little pieces in this one.

It was wonderful to get back into the stories that I loved as a child. Not gonna lie, but Prince Caspian felt soo much shorter then what I had remembered. There were several characters that I was drawn to: Edmund, Doctor Cornelius, and Reepicheep. I have always loved Reepicheep. So no surprise there. 😉 I was surprised to see how much Edmund had grown since the last book. Susan got a little on my nerves, and I could see the start of her disbelief in Narnia.

The plot moves along at a good clip, but I didn’t realize how long it took the Pevensies to get to Caspian. They didn’t meet him until like 3/4s of the way through the book. There is not a lot of action per say, but Lewis incorporates word building masterfully as to build his world, but also to keep things moving. Although, this is not my favorite book in the series, it has many good themes. I would probably say that The Silver Chair is my favorite, especially with all the character development that occurs.

One theme I picked up on was faith. Although the word is never used, you could tell Lewis was weaving the concept throughout the whole book. A couple examples is the old Narnian’s belief/nonbelief in the high kings/queens. Or Lucy’s ability to see Aslan while the older children cannot. Later on Aslan performs a few miracles similar to a few miracles that Jesus performed. Anyhow for some reason I always thought The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as having the most Biblical themes, but Lewis incorporated it in all of his books.

Language – One use of mild language.

Innuendo – None

Violence –

Lewis keeps these books pretty clean. There are a couple sword fights. A few characters get cuts or draw blood. There is a scene where a werewolf and a hag attack a few characters. Several characters die, not in detail. There is a battle where characters fight one another.

Conclusion –

Its fun to go back and reread book. I always pick up things that I had missed when I read it as a kid. The Chronicles of Narnia is a wonderful series that I cannot recommend enough. It is definitely a classic that deserves to be read, especially if you are a Christian. Glad I took the time to reread Prince Caspian!!

Have you read this series? If so, what is your favorite book in the series? Is it Prince Caspian?

Review for Wildwood

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, Fantasy

Series – 1st in the Wildwood Chronicles

Rating – PG for mild peril

Synopsis –

Prue loves her baby brother, Mac, and she will do anything to keep him safe. One day while visiting a park, crows swoop in and steal Mac right out of Prue’s hands. She decides to follow the crows into the Impassable Wilderness to look for him. Prue’s classmate, Curtis, follows her into the woods. As they traverse the forest, they meet many creatures along the way who inform them of the perilous political situation that the South woods are in. As the evil Dowager Governess amasses an army, will Prue be able to save her brother before it is too late?

My Thoughts

This book had been on my TBR list for quit some time, and I am just now getting around to it. I came into it knowing nothing about it except that it was reminiscent of Narnia.

It started out with so much potential with a likeable heroine trying to save her brother from an evil queen. I thought Prue was a relatable character. She did what was right in the face of danger. I also liked Curtis, the quiet friend who sort of tags along for the ride. I would say Curtis had better developmental arc as he had some hard lessons to learn.

It felt like the author was trying to tell 2 stories in 1 book. The first half the book explains the political issues that the Wildwood is experiencing. We see the what goes on in the South wood while Curtis’s adventure shows us what the queen is truly like. Then the story shifts gears and we meet two more different groups of people: the Mystics and the Bandits. The book is long for a middle-grade novel. It clocks in at 544 pages. I feel like the author could have cut the book in half and told the first half just by itself, maybe go a bit more into what the South Wood is like.

I cruised through the first chunk of the book, but then about 30% in I hit a snag and slowed down. Personally, I had to force myself to sit down and finish it. Normally I love these two genres so I don’t know if I’d enjoy having an actual copy to read or maybe this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

One quibble I do have to mention is about the Mystics. They are a very New-age type of group who mediate and speak to the trees. A few of their poses sound similar to yoga. A character offers some advice to another character explaining that we have no control over what happens to us. Something about this just sounded off to me. Several characters mention there being no god. I come from a Christian worldview so I struggled with some of the themes that the author put in there.

Language – Fairly clean, I think only 2 or 3 uses of mild language.

Innuendo – Again, not much there. A character gives another character a kiss on the cheek before a battle.

Violence – The Bandits and the Dowager Governess are at war. So there are several skirmishes mentioned. A couple mentions of dead bodies. A character makes a choice and is taken prisoner. He is put into a suspended cage. A couple times where character shoot at other people/animals. A bird is shot through the chest and dies. During one battle a character is shoot in the shoulder and it mentions his wound bleeding. Another character is shot in the chest and falls down (doesn’t die). Most of this was not very detailed.

Conclusion –

An interesting read that at times did remind me of Narnia. I did like the characters as they all had flaws and issues they were working through. The author did a decent job creating a believable fantasy world, but there were a few issues that I had with it. Glad that I finished it! Now I can move on to something different.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? How’s your April going?

Anna contemporary

Review for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages

The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, science fiction

Rating – PG for mild peril

Series – 5th book in The Mysterious Benedict Society

Synopsis –

It has been several years since we last met with the society. They have now grown up and matured. Yet, there is a new crisis arising. The Ten Men have escaped and are looking for revenge, and they have teamed up with another telepathic individual. Will the society be able to come together once more?

My Thoughts –

I was so excited when I first heard this was coming out!! I read this series back when I was in middle-school. So this was a sweet treat to be able to visit with some old friends. The older kids are roughly 16 years old, maybe 17. While, Constance is now 8.

This book had a different feel to it then the previous four. (I’m included The Extortionary Education of Nicholas Benedict in the count.) The writing style has changed. The riddles are still there, but the focus has shifted more to how they have all changed.

A key component to this book is growing up and how that affects friendships. I think this one will resonate with kids and adults alike. There are some great moments in there between Reynie and Mr. Benedict which really got to me. I loved that we get an idea of where the kids will go in the future.

I will mention a couple downsides that I feel detract from this book. First, less action and less mystery. I do with there would have been a bit more mystery for the kids to solve. It spent much more time focusing on interpersonal communication.

Secondly, the adults where for the most part are out of the picture. I remember when I first read this series, how positive the adults were portrayed. So, many books these days have awful parenting. This was always a series I could count on showing positive parent-child relationships. Not to say that the parents were portrayed negatively, but their influence was minimal at best. I guess this is due to the kids needed to grow up and take on more responsibility.

Language – None

Innuendo – A character who can read thoughts heard that a some characters had crushes on each other. There is no mention of who crushes were on.

Violence – This series for the most part tries to handle things without relying on violence. Several characters talk about how they do not want to hurt anyone. A bad character throws pencils at other characters, and talks about hurting them. Also a character shoots tranquilizer darts, but overall no one is hurt.

Summery –

I loved being able to return to this fantastic series. The whit and charm were still there, but the characters themselves have changed. While, there is less action, we get a deeper look at friendship and the lengths one would take to keep it going. This would be a great read-aloud!

What are your thoughts? Have you read this series? Which book is your favorite?

Anna

Review for Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes (Peter Nimble #1)

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Genre – Middle-grade, fantasy, mystery

Rating – PG for fantasy violence

Age range – Middle school on up (I think it would make a good read aloud)

Synopsis –

Peter Nimble is trying to make a living for himself by stealing for Mr. Seamus despite his blindness. Until one day he meets a mysterious stranger who helps Peter by giving him a special gift. Peter then sets out across the ocean to answer a call for help, and might discover someone about himself along the way.

My thoughts –

This was a quirky book which I really enjoyed reading. The author wrote it in the third person so at times the narrator will pop out and explain something. A sort of cheeky comical/absurd feel to it. It meshed several genres together by combining fantasy, with an orphan tale, and a dash of mystery. The beginning was reminiscent of Oliver Twist.

The plot was tight and moved quickly. Several of the twists were a little predictable. I saw the end coming a mile away. The characters while, absurd at times, were relatable. Throughout the novel, Peter really grows as a character from petty thief to revolutionary. I loved that Sir Tode became one of Peter’s best friends and stood up for him. Also, the ravens were a nice touch. Now, the bad guys felt very one dimensional. They were totally evil.

I loved how the author incorporated the Fantastic Eyes throughout the book. They helped Peter when used the right way. Thankfully, they weren’t overused. Some books rescue the hero every time he gets in trouble. Not in this book, when Peter gets in trouble, he learns from his mistakes.

Violence – It was more violent then I expected for a middle grade book. There were two main battles where many characters died. In a couple places there is mention of blood covering a street. A gang of boys throw daggers around a zebra. The ravens attack and kill a few banished thieves. Several ravens get cut or die.

Language – None

Innuendo – None

Other- I should mention that there is a fair amount of thieving that goes on. The book does mention that thievery is not a good thing. Peter does not enjoy doing it, but he does it cause he has too.

Conclusion –

This book had me intrigued from the start! I love the cover as it catches your eye. The narrator sometimes pops up and made me laugh with the third person dialogue. I cannot wait to read the squeal.

Quick Reviews – 5 Books I read

I am going to try something different from how I normally write reviews. I will write about my top 5 books I have read in the past month. I have been reading a lot recently and I wanted to mention some of these amazing books. Now as a side note I do want to give The Silmarillion its own post as there is a lot to unpack.

The Story People by Heather Kaufman

Synopsis – Ben owns a bookstore that had belonged to his uncle. He struggles with finding a sense of home. When a female author comes to town, the town ladies try to match make these two together.

Thoughts – Although a wee bit predictable, it was a sweet read. I loved how the author put snippets telling the back story of the two kids at the beginning of each chapter. There were several times that this book made me laugh. I loved the older ladies and their escapades trying to keep Ben in town. If you are looking for a nice, light read, this is for you!

Rating – PG for some mild innuendo

Corus the Champion Lengends of Karac Tor by D. Briggs

Synopsis- This continues the story of the Barlow brothers and their adventures into Karac Tor. The four brothers have their work cut out for them as an enemy from the north approaches seeking to destroy all. Meanwhile Sorge attempts to find his lost friend.

Thoughts – I enjoyed this one even more then the first because now that the setting is built, we can sit back and enjoy the ride. One particular character goes on quite the journey. This book had more themes from Arthurian legend which I thought was neat! We actually get to see both Arthur and Merlin. I felt that this plot had more depth than the previous book. The time-travel thing was great and enhanced the plot.

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and a torture scene

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

Synopsis – This is the history of Middle-Earth from its creation to the fall of Saruon. It tells the tale of the Silmarils which are three jewels that were created by the Valar. Melkor seeks revenge on the Valar and tries to take the Silmarils. There are also tales of the courage and corruption of the people of Middle Earth like men and elves.

Thoughts – Going into this book, I had anticipated hating it or at least dragging myself through it. I must say that it is so different from the Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed it more then I had thought I would and will probably need to reread this in the future. There are parts that were dry, but it makes up for it later on. I loved the tale of Beren and Luthien and the fall of Gondolin. Tolkien is a master word builder. The words he created can be very beautiful.

Rating – PG for fantasy violence

I found a podcast that does a great job of going thought Tolkien’s works. If you are interested, they will walk you through The Silmarillion. Highly recommend the Prancing Pony Podcast!

https://theprancingponypodcast.com/category/podcast-episodes/

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

Synopsis – Sasha’s brother has recently passed away and she must brave the world. She gets put into a foster home with a women who cares very much for her, but Sasha has gone through so much, and doesn’t know how to let Phillis in. Though a series of events, Sasha discovers poetry as a coping mechanism.

Thoughts – This was sad and almost depressing read. It has a happy ending, but gosh, this kid gets put through the ringer. For a middle-grade book, this has some tough themes, depression, anxiety, and grief. It actually reminded me a little bit of October Sky. It was an interesting read, but I am still on the fence about it.

Rating – PG for heavy themes and mild language

Haatchi and Little B by Wendy Holden

Synopsis – This book tells the story of Owan, a boy who suffers from Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, and Haatchi, a dog who was run over by a train. It tells their journey to find one another.

Thoughts- The story of how they found each other is very touching. Haatchi goes through quite an ordeal before he finds a forever home. I always find it amazing how dogs can have such an impact people’s lives. I did find the book a little dry at times as the author gave the book more textbook like. I did like the descriptions of what Schwartz-Jampel syndrome was as I had never heard of it. What this pair has gone through is astounding.

Rating – G

Cannot wait to hear from you! What books have you been reading?

Anna

Review for Greenglass House

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Genre – Middle-grade mystery/fantasy

Rating -PG – mild peril and a few choice words

Summary –

It is Christmas time, and all Milo wants to do is relax with his parents, but unexpectedly guests start arriving at the inn. Then items start disappearing from the guest’s rooms. Who is the thief, and is it connected to the guests sudden appearance?

My thoughts –

This is a tough book to write up as I have mixed feeling about it. It combines fantasy with a mystery, yet in a very down to earth way. First, there are many things that I liked about this book. The main character Milo is an upstanding hero who loves his parents, but struggles with being adopted. He and another character work together well as they try to figure out the puzzle. I thought the mystery part was well written, and did not know who the thief was until the reveal.

The author did something unique for middle grade fiction by making most of the characters adults. At the start of the book, I struggled keeping track of who everybody was as they arrived all at once, but later on you get to know the characters. The two kids are respect the adults and Milo will ask his parents for help when he needs it.

Another part of the plot revolves around Milo pretending to be a character in a campaign game which assists him in the investigation. Their campaign is based entirely on the events that have occurred at the inn. I think the game is somewhat similar Dungeons and Dragons in that there are a variety of characters to pick from, and they each have special abilities (I have not played D &D just heard of it). This also helps him imagine what his real parents might have been like.

Also, I should mention that part of the story involves thieves and stealing items. Milo’s parents own a inn where smugglers frequently visit. Some characters tell stories about a famous smuggler who supposedly hide his treasure.

Language – Milo’s parents and other guests say Oh my G a couple times. Five or six uses of the H word mostly used in a common phrase. Still I was surprised to see it in a middle grade book

Violence – A character pulls out a gun and waves it around. He tries to shoot someone, but nobody gets hurt.

Innuendo – None

Other –

Now, we come to the final odd bit of the book. I am going to try to be as spoiler free as possible, but it gives the surprise away. So, if you want to be surprised skip this next paragraph. Ok, to start a couple characters talk about having seen a ghost and tell the story. Later, we come to realize that one character is a ghost. Honestly, I was not expecting this. It came towards the end. It knocked the book down a couple notches for me. I think it could have been a perfectly fine book without sticking ghosts in it.

Conclusion –

I am still on the fence with this book. There are many good things that I enjoyed about this book. I loved the characters which were all quirky. The plot never dragged. I read it within a couple days. Despite other thing mentioned, I enjoyed this one. It reminded me a bit of the Mysterious Benedict Society. Age wise not sure. I think it would depend on the child, but middle school on up. Adults can enjoy it as well.

Have you read this book and or the sequel? What did you like/dislike?

Anna