The Inheritance Games Vs. Truly, Devious

First, in this post I wanted to compare two YA mysteries that I recently finished and discuss which one I preferred. I’ll give a little background for each book. Let’s get started!

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Barnes

Genre – Family Drama, Mystery, Adventure

Series – 1st book in The Inheritance Games series

Rating – In between a solid PG and a soft PG-13

Synopsis –

Avery Grambs is normal teenager who is just trying to make it through high school. After her mom passed away, she moved in with her step-sister, Libby. One day while busy with classes, she is called to the office. There a handsome young man who tells Avery that she is named in Tobias Hawthorne ‘s will. A wealthy man who Avery didn’t even know existed. Upon arrival at his mansion, she finds she isn’t the only one eager to hear the will. Tobias had two daughters & four grandsons, Nash, Grayson, Jameson, & Alexander. These brothers don’t take kindly to a stranger waltzing in stealing their fortune. Will Avery figure out why her name is in the will?

My Thoughts –

I’ll briefly go over what I thought of The Inheritance Games before moving on to the next one. I liked Avery quite a bit, she wasn’t the typical rebellious teenager, she had some grit to her. Her dream to travel the world was sweet as she was inspired by her mom. Now Libby on the other hand, while compassionate, was so annoying. I just kept asking why Libby, why would you do that?? Jameson also was a bit of a jerk at times and I just didn’t care for him. I loved Oren the security guard. He is definitely someone who you want on your side. Grayson and Xander were funny and took a little getting used too.

I feel like the plot balanced character growth with action and the plot moving forward. The mystery surrounding Tobias Hawthorne was intriguing. Loved the hidden clues and how Hawthorne wanted his family to work together. Now that I look at it kinda similar to The Ultimate Gift movie. It was a book that I enjoyed and didn’t want to put down.

Content – Mild occasional language, some kissing. A brief mention of a dead character character being lesbian

Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson

Genre – Mystery, Coming of Age,

Series – 1st book in the Truly Devious series

Rating – PG-13 for swearing and innuendo

Synopsis –

Stevie Bell is a true crime fanatic. She loves mysteries and has read all the classics. After convincing her parents that Ellingham Academy is the place for her, she arrives at this isolated school in the mountains. She then sets out on a journey to solve an actual crime that happened there back in 1936. Albert Ellingham founded this academy as a free school to the brightest minds. In 1935 he, his wife Iris, and daughter Alice create their mansion and Academy. Then the unexpected happens Alice and Iris are kidnapped. Ellingham tries everything he can to save them, yet the ransom money is not enough. Later it is found that his wife was dead. Will Stevie be able to put the pieces together to solve this cold case?

My Thoughts –

Hmm, I’m trying to get my thoughts in order. First, I really didn’t care for Stevie or her friend Janelle. Almost all the kids at Ellingham are kinda horrid. The only one I even somewhat connected to was the writer kid Nate. Stevie was very proud of how much she knew about the case and how smart she is which got repetitive and grating. Also, I could tell David was lying and a bad influence from miles away.

I did listen to this as an audiobook. Let’s just say I didn’t care for the narrator. She could not do different voices so all the guy voices really run together and made it hard to distinguish who was who. So, that might have been the problem.

Ok, so I liked the the Ellingham case in the 30’s that mystery was interesting, but the modern mystery of Hayes’s death, ick, boring. Also, the flashbacks/flash forwards were done at odd times. I would have preferred the setting be just one time frame. I was hoping that by the end we would find out who the culprit was behind the Devious letter, but nope. Honestly, Stevie doesn’t find out anything new until like the last page.

Content – The teens swear and have a make-out session. Also there are two lesbian characters which felt a little much.

Now I’ll compare the two. Both books have a female lead who is out to solve a crime/mystery. I feel like Avery is a more flushed out character and I liked her a whole lot better then Stevie. Stevie was stuck up and had a hatred for her parents which I didn’t care for. Also, the supporting characters were better in The Inheritance games. I did like Nate in Truly, Devious, but he didn’t get much page time. Xander’s thoughts on scone eating had me laughing. Overall, the best characters goes to The Inheritance Games. Also, why did both authors have stick in lesbian characters? In my opinion we can write quality books without sticking stuff like that in.

Comparing the setting between the two, Truly, Devious had a more dark, ominous tone that was very like a classic noir film. I found it funny that both took place at rich schools or with wealthy individuals. While the mystery in The Inheritance Games felt more lighthearted and National Treasure like. Both were intriguing and both left on a bit of a cliffhanger with unanswered questions. Now I don’t mind unanswered questions, I mean Lost is one of my favorite shows, but I wish the authors could have given us a bit more to go on.

Conclusion –

As you can probably tell, I liked The Inheritance Games a whole lot better! Hands down. Now is it my favorite YA book, no. I feel like there are others that have a better mystery and a wee bit better written. Although I could see this making an interesting movie.

Now over to you! Have you read either of these two books? Do you have a favorite YA book?

Up next – I’m reading Merlin by Stephan Lawhead. Felt in the mood for more Arthurian Legend. 😉

Anna

Review for Caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Genre – Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Series – 1st book in the Caraval series

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and innuendo

Synopsis –

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

My Thoughts –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion –

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

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

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

Anna

Review for Nova

Nova by Chuck Black

Genre – Christian Fiction, Fantasy, & Sci-fi

Series – 1st in The Starlore Legacy

Rating – PG – for science fiction related battles and violence

Synopsis –

Daeson Lockridge is the cousin to the prince of Jypton, Linden. Jpton has three castes: Elite, Colloquials, and Drudge (A.K.A Rayleans). The Drudge make up the whole working class who submit to the Elite’s authority. Despite being apart of the royal family, he dreams of being a becoming a topnotch pilot at the academy. Having almost finished his training, Daeson life it turned upside down when he meets Raviel, a Drudge mechtech. Upon talking with her, Daeson realizes everything he once held dear was a lie. Force to flee Jypton, Daeson must decide what he believes before it becomes too late.

My Thoughts –

So far in 2021, I’ve finished 3 books, two of which I loved: a reread of Salt to Sea which made me love that book even more and Nova!! I have been waiting to read Nova for quite some time, having read almost all of his previous books. Most of his books involve a Christian virtue or Biblical story woven throughout. It was a wonderful mix of a retelling of Moses with a unique technological universe of planets.

I liked Daeson, Raviel, and Tig. Daeson especially felt fleshed out. I kept hoping we would get more about Tig. Compared to some of Black’s previous female leads, Raviel is a definite improvement and I liked her and Daeson together. Not sure what to make of Rivet the droid. Is he good or just waiting to betray them? The AI wars reminded me of Star Wars and Rivet of a droid from Mandolorien series.

Black’s strong suit is setting and word building. He does a great job creating a believable world with unique technology and writes in a way that makes you fell like you are there with the characters. I mean he even provides diagrams of some of the technology. I do wish he had a map of the galaxy or of Jypton.

You can tell it’s based off Moses and the Isrealites in Egypt, but it’s subtler then I had expected. Which is totally fine and works! The prologue introduces Immortals who I am assuming are angels?? Ell Yon is the one true God who is with the Immortals. Both are invisible. Ell Yon makes an appearance to Daeson somewhat similar to the burning bush. They have an exchange where Daeson asks questions and Ell Yon answers, “I am.” Very similar to God’s words to Moses in Exodus.

The plot moved a quick pace and had a fair amount of action sequences. Intriguing enough to keep you hooked, but felt very predictable. I’d say The Clock of Light had a better plot, but Nova had better characters, but that’s just my opinion.

Language – None

Violence – There are fighter jet type ships that Daeson flies so we get several aerial battles. Several enemy Starcraft are blow up during Daeson’s escape. In protecting a meeting with Raviel, Daeson destroys a few drones and knocks out a sentry. Later rogue robots shoot and almost kill both Raviel and Daeson. We see the desolation that occurs when the Elite’s massacre most of the Raylean population.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

A solid start to a new series! I love science fiction and am always on the lookout for anything new, especially Christian science fiction, which is difficult to find. Nova was a pleasant surprise and very clean. It’s something you could easily read in a day or two. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Next – I’ve already started my next books which I will be reading at the same time: Caraval by Stephanie Garber and rereading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Now over to you! How’s your January going? Have you heard of Nova or Chuck Black’s other series?

Anna

Review for The Death Cure

The Death Cure by James Dashner

Genre – Dystopian, Mystery, Suspense

Series – 3rd book in the Maze Runner series

Rating – PG-13 for violence and death

Synopsis –

Thomas is fed-up with WICKED, they have told so many lies and caused him to lose many friends. They have even told Thomas that his best friend Newt has the virus. So, he decides to take matters into his own hands and leave as quickly as possible with Mingho and Newt. Yet, when their escape is too easy and they begin to suspect something is off. Did WICKED let them go? Will they be able to find a cure before it is too late? And just who can be trusted?

My Thoughts –

Wow, um kinda hard to believe that I finished this series already! Now that I’ve read/listened to the series, I can honestly say the first book is the best! The Maze Runner was able to bring to life these boys and yet still move the mystery along. Plus it didn’t have the weird love triangle that started in The Scorch Trials, ugh, sorry Brenda fans.

buddy the elf no GIF

I just really didn’t like or trust her. Even in The Death Cure, she just got more annoying. Like what even, that kiss at the end?? Your best friend who was a girl just died, and Thomas goes and kisses Brenda? No! Just No!

I was also kinda sad about the characters in this one. So far they were pretty consistent, yet now Newt goes all crazy and acts completely different. I get he has the flare, but really! Ugh, * Spoiler Alert * His death felt so sidelined and why did he have to die? End of Spoiler. Thomas also was a bit wishy-washy not really knowing what he wanted. I missed the good old days when they had a mission to see through

gilmore girls dancing GIF

The One good thing Character wise was Gally! So nice to see him again, despite how the author left him off in The Maze Runner, he had some redemption here that made up for Chuck a little bit.

The plot felt a little bit all over the map. Maybe that is just my take on it. The storytelling is pretty good, and Dashner creates a fairly believable world, especially when talking about recent events like COVID. Felt a little too close to home. Overall the plot moves more like 1 step forward, 2 steps back, which was a little frustrating. I did like the end though, not counting a character death, too convenient for me. 🙁 The whole going back to maze and saving everybody was good to see. I’m not really sure how I feel about the Immunes just leaving rest of world to crumble though, I guess there isn’t much they can do.

I have to say that I really liked how the movie did The Death Cure! They smoothed out a few crinkles and kept the characters from changing so much. They also did a much better job with the 2 character’s death. Didn’t feel so worthless and more self-sacrificial.

Violence – I feel like the author stepped up the violence quite a bit! What with the flare turning people crazy and zombie like. Lots of fighting, stabbing, characters get shot, and tazzed with electricity. One instance of running cranks (people with the flare) over in a car. The cranks were trying to kill our characters by smashing windows, reaching in and grabbing them by hair. One character shots another character to put him out of his misery. He is dying a slow and painful death. Didn’t really appreciate this at all. A building collapses causing characters to get trapped or smashed by rocks. One character stops a rock to save others before dying.

Language – Maybe 5 instances of mild swearing. The author invented his own colorful language that the boys use including: shank, slim it, and shuck, used throughout book.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

I feel like I mostly had negatives to say about book, but it really wasn’t all bad. There were a few nice moments, and I will say it was hard to put down! It’s an interesting end to the series a bit odd, but you get a few answers about why they went through the trials and maze, but nothing concrete. Movie better, period. Maybe, it would have helped to have read books before watching movies. 😉 The books are very much aimed at the YA audience, like 90% of the characters are teenagers. I have mixed feeling about this book, I liked it, but also got annoyed by characters.

Anyway, have you ever read this series and have a favorite? What are your thoughts about ending?

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Anna

Review of The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genre – Dystopian, Science Fiction, Survival

Series – 1st book in the Maze Runner series

Rating – PG-13 for violence, scary situations

Synopsis –

Thomas wakes up in box remembering nothing of his previous life, except his name. He soon discovers that he is trapped inside a maze with roughly 4o other boys with similar experiences. They live in the Glade a square space set in the middle of the maze that is closed off from the maze at night. As he befriends some of the other boys, becomes curious about how the maze works. Alby and Newt (the two leaders) show Thomas the ropes, and he soon realizes that he desperately wants to be one of the runners who map out the maze. There is a little resistance from Gally, who claims to recognize Thomas, There are also Grievers, a rubber slug like creature with robotic appendages, who roam the maze at night. Will Thomas and the other boys be able to find a way out? Who put them here?

My Thoughts –

Sorry about the small Hiatus! Things have picked up at work and life has been busy! Hoping to post more soon. I liked this book, I really did, despite reading of this book after watching the movie. Previously, I hadn’t really heard of this series before finding it at local library. I was fascinated by the mystery behind it. Reminded me a lot of Lost, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So after seeing the first movie, I found the book at the library and plowed through it fairly quickly. I have to say that personally, I like puzzles and figuring out what’s going on, so I didn’t mind that the author held back information or gave it to us in small chunks.

I have to say that I liked the movie’s portrayal of Alby and Thomas better then the book. I feel like it flushed out their characters a bit better then the book did. Although, Newt and Mingho had more personality in the book. So, go figure that one out. Chuck is so sweet and the perfect friend for Thomas, who could be a bit selfish at times. Newt is one of my favorite characters and I can connect with him on several levels. He is kinda like the peacemaker of the group and the one who keeps things going. Not really a leader though. Liked the whole Newt having a limb, remind anybody of Crutchie from Newsies ?? 🙂

Although the writing wasn’t super great, the plot moved quickly and kept me interested in the story. There isn’t much character development, more focused on the action and mystery behind the maze which didn’t bug me too much. You don’t get many answers even by the end of the book. * Spoiler Alert * I liked that the maze actually spelled out words to help escape, but wanted more there to be more it. Ending a wee bit flat. It seemed that Thomas just suddenly had the answer to solving maze. Wished he had to work harder to get answer.

There were several little bits that I really loved! Chuck’s sacrifice! What a noble act for such a young kid! He was so brave. I also loved the parts about the Glade and how they had built a little community. Every person had a job; left me wanting more. It felt like that section so brief before we moved on to more action sequences. The meeting of the Keepers was also a nice touch.

Language – Maybe 2 uses of mild British language, mostly the author invented his own slang words that the boys used frequently like “Greenie”, “shank”, “shuck”

Innuendo – None

Violence – Um, yeah, there is quite a bit. Not gory, but it’s in there. First, there is this sickness that people get if stung by the Grievers. It makes them lose their mind and eventually die if they don’t get antidote. The antidote has side effects as well. It causes green veins to appear all over the body & gives the person flash backs to their previous life. The Grievers also will attack at night and either sting them or use its appendages to cause harm. This happens a couple times. Mentions of people getting left out in maze at night who disappear or killed. There is a battle where many Gladers are killed by grievers. Not really detailed, but we know it happens. Chuck jumps in front of a knife to save Thomas. One guy tries to kill Thomas after going through changeling process and remembering.

Other – One other thing I want to mention. After the guy tries to kill Thomas, he is banished to the maze. They all kinda push him out of the glade. This made no sense to me. I mean the guy wasn’t right in the head due to the antidote. Cut him some slack. I felt sorry for him and we see Thomas being horrified at this. Just wish he didn’t have to die.

Conclusion –

I’m a sucker for good mystery with twists and complex puzzles; this book fit perfectly. I enjoyed it quite a bit! The characters felt and acted like normal teenage kids and hopefully they get a bit fleshed out and develop over next book. I really wanted to figure out what was going on, despite having seen the movie, as there were some big differences. Although I had a few quibbles, its a decent first installment and yeah, I’m reading the next one. 😉

Have you seen or heard of this series? What are your thoughts? Can you believe it is already November!

Anna

Review for The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Genre – Fantasy, Contemporary, YA fiction

Series – First in The Chronicles of Kazam series

Rating – PG – for fantasy violence

Synopsis –

Working at Kazam has taught Jennifer Strange a fair amount about wizards and how to deal to them. After Mr. Zambini’s disappearance, Jennifer has also taken over managing the whole building. As a 15 year old founding, Jennifer has no clue who her parents were, but she is looking forward to finishing her indentureship upon turning 18. News begins spreading that the soothsayers have foreseen the last dragon dying. The dragonlands are surrounded by a force field that keeps everyone but the dragonslayer out. This leads to a flood of people If the dragonlands disappears then so will all the history behind the dragons. Jennifer decides to try to stop it.

My Thoughts –

awkward the little mermaid GIF

Sorry about the small hiatus, but things have picked up with work, so I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d like. I have had this post in the works for a couple weeks &I have to admit that I listened to this as an audiobook.

Going into it I had no expectations and was pleasantly surprised! The narrator was terrific, although some of her guy voices kinda ran together. The characters were quirky and odd, but enjoyable. It made me enjoy driving which is a statement right there. It takes a good audiobook to do that as you are constantly pausing every 20 minutes or so. In addition it was pretty clean, yet interesting enough that the whole family could enjoy it.

Jennifer was a strong character who was used to having the world on her shoulders. She was kind, truthful, and sometimes right to the point. Tiger was so sweet and I really wanted to see more of him, but since its a series hopefully he appears more later on. In all the other fantasy books I’ve read, dragons usually team up or are evil. This story was different. The dragons were kinda neutral, depending upon how you looked at it. They also were a minor part in the book.

Pacing was also well done, although a little bit predictable. I kinda saw who the last dragonslayer was from like a mile away. The ending though surprised me. I figured they would have to wrap it up quick and didn’t know how author would accomplish that. Kinda neat actually! (I’m Trying not to give away spoilers.) 😉

An overall theme was greed. Fforde really showed what can happen when man just keeps taking and taking. It was sad how many characters were affected by it. The truth came out in the end and we got some answers into why some of the characters did the things they did.

Violence – Minimal, one creature self sacrifices himself for Jennifer. Jennifer reluctantly uses her sword to kill a dragon (he actually asked her to do it). Cannon shots are fired.

Language – Maybe one or uses of a certain word

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

This was a very enjoyable audiobook!! I liked the characters and found myself pulled into the story & smiling at the wit & humor sprinkled throughout. Despite the fact that there was some magic, it was mostly kept to the foreground and didn’t really bother me too much. The perfect audio for family trip!!

Have you read this series? How is your summer’s going? Been able to read?

Anna

Review for Murder at Hatfield House

Murder at Hatfield House by Amanda Carmack

Genre – Historical fiction, Mystery

Series – First book in the Elizabethan Mysteries

Rating – PG – for Mild language and violence

Synopsis –

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.

Conclusion –

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?

Anna

Review for War of Swords

War of Swords by D. Barkley Briggs

Genre – Christian fiction, fantasy, YA

Series – 5th & final book in the Legends of Karac Tor

Rating – PG for violence and scary creatures

Synopsis –

The four Barlow brothers have been in Karac Tor for 2 years now. They have all grown up so much since following the ravens through the tunnel. They are about to enter into a battle not only to fight for their lives, but for the whole realm. Kr’Nunos is assembling an army of twisted and evil creatures to ransack and take over the land. As the Barlow’s fight for their lives, they are about to confront their greatest fear – losing someone they love. Will these brothers be able to stand firm against the incoming onslaught?

My Thoughts –

Yea!! I finally finished this series!! It took me a while to finish this. I think I started this series back in the summer of last year. Now that the library is somewhat open, I can now finally get books!! Anyway, this was an interesting conclusion to this series.

Honestly, I did not remember many of the characters as it has been awhile since I read the previous books. So I was a little lost. I spent a good chunk of the book trying to remember who everyone was. Weirdly enough, the author did not summarize what had happened previously. There were a couple characters I still don’t remember how they met the main characters. Also, I believe there is a gap between this book and previous one as now it has been 2-3 years since the first book. The author did provide a glossary of names at the back of the book which helped a lot.

One thing I really like about this series is that it incorporates the Arthurian legend. We have Arthur, and a mention of Tal Yssen (basically Merlin). I have kinda been on a Arthurian legend binge what with watching Merlin and recently reading a couple different stories. So I enjoyed Arthur being a key person in this story.

Of the brothers, I really only connected with Hadyn and Ewan Barlow. I think part of the reason that I didn’t like Gabe or Garret was they just felt soo young. There were a couple sections where the writing felt like it was aimed at middle-schoolers. I can’t quite put my finger on it, it just felt childish at times. Maybe I am just getting used to reading high fantasy. I don’t know.

The allegory was strong in this one. Pun intended. 😉 Aion (basically a Jesus character) is the high prince of Isgurd (heaven). His followers have to trust him despite Aion being across the sea. Kr’Nunos was a Satan like character. He had corrupted certain people groups who before the song had turned their backs on Aion. Bits of it reminded me of the last book in the Left Behind series. As it is the final battle.

Language – None

Violence – As there are battles throughout the book, there are some descriptions of the fights. Most of these descriptions are well kept within a PG rating though. Many characters get wounded/die. A couple mentions of the ground being covered with blood. There is a sea battle where ships get destroyed by a hurricane/ bombs. Characters shoot arrows/get shot by arrows. Several descriptions of the evil creatures called Goths and Ravers and their powers.

Innuendo – Very little, a few kisses between a few couples. One couple gets married.

Conclusion –

This was a great conclusion to this series. It feels so good to have finished this series. There were some great themes like loyalty, faith, and sacrifice. Most of the characters stood for what was right despite difficult situations. I would have no problem giving this to a middle-schooler or teen. If you are looking for a new fantasy series to read, this one would be a great choice.

Have you heard of this series? Which is your favorite book? How is your May going?

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 of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia Mckillip

Genre – Fantasy, YA,

Series – Standalone

Rating – PG for thematic elements

Synopsis –

Once Sybel’s father dies, she is left to care for a menagerie of animals. This a relatively easy task as Sybel has the power to talk to these animals from tales long forgotten. To complete her collection, she seeks the Liralen a great white bird. One day amidst her search, a young man appears at her door with a baby. He asks her to raise the child and keep him safe. She reluctantly agrees. After raising the boy for 12 years, he leaves to go live with his father. Sybel faces some hard choices regarding love and hate.

My Thoughts –

I have some conflicting thoughts on this one. Throughout the beginning, I struggled to connect with the characters. The author leaves things for you to figure out, but at first the conversations left me confused. I got used it at the book progressed, but there were points where I felt left in the dark. Then about 40% through things started picking up and it switched from focusing on characters to emotions. I thought the ending made a lot of sense.

Now before I get too far I want to mention that in the fantasy world there are wizards. Honestly, I didn’t know this beforehand. Typically, I do not read book with magic with them. I goes against my religious beliefs. As the Bible says that we are not to use magic. Yes, there is some magic, not a lot though, so I decided to continue. Sybel’s father was a wizard, and she has his gifts. There is an evil wizard who works for the king and they try to brainwash Sybel into marrying the king. Sybel also has a neighbor who has powers, but the author leaves an open interpretation as to whether or not she is a witch. She doesn’t do anything witch like.

Alright, I have a few qualms with Sybel and Coren’s relationship. The first 60% of the book every conversation they had was negative. Sybel hated him. Then all of sudden she switches gears and accepts his marriage proposal. She doesn’t even marry him for love, but due to a hidden agenda. Ugh!! Sybel made me so mad. Corren was my favorite character. Most of the characters had secrets or agendas that drove them, but Corren seemed to truly love Sybel for who she was. The ending ,while sad, made me really happy.

I will say the book had few good points going for it. The word building was excellent. It felt colorful and very imaginative with how the author built her fantasy world. Also, the emotional themes really drove the novel things like love verses hate, and how revenge changes a person. Lastly I will say the book was hard to put down especially as things picked up speed.

Violence – Not much. A few mentions of bodies left by a dragon. Also, there was a war that occurred before start of book. We hear how people miss those who died. Also, characters plot out and plan for a war ( it doesn’t happen though).

Language – None

Innuendo –

A couple kisses between two characters. The king tries to force Sybel to marry him. Two characters talk about having kids. A married couple make up and sleep on floor together – doesn’t go into detail. One reference to a women wearing a revealing shirt.

Conclusion –

I would say I didn’t love this one, but I didn’t truly hate it either. I liked it enough to finish it. The author had some good themes woven throughout, and she knew how to hold the reader’s attention. There were several things I struggled with that I mentioned above. This fantasy novel had a different feel to it then previous books I have read. Glad I finished it, and now I can move on.

Have you read this book or others by this author? If so what are your thoughts? I love hearing from you guys. Please reply in the comment box below.

Anna