3 Books I’ve Recently Finished

Hello Blogger chums!!

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, however, I finished three odd, quirky, and a little bit different books that I want to discuss. I liked two of these and the last one I struggled to really enjoy.

So let’s talk books!

First, Arthur by Stephan Lawhead

Arthur by Stephen Lawhead

Genre – Fantasy, Historical & Christian Fiction

Series – Book 3 in The Pendragon Cycle

Rating – PG-13 for War

Synopsis –

Using three different characters – Pelleas, Bedwyr, & Aneirin, we get a glimpse into who Arthur was and how he ruled his kingdom. We start with Arthur as a lad of 13 who is eager to earn honor. He is the rightful king of Britain, but the people do not acknowledge him and bicker amongst themselves. With the help of Merlin, Arthur begins to unite the land and fight for freedom.

My thoughts –

I’ve been a fan of Lawhead’s for quite some time. He has a way of crafting characters that leap off the page. We see flawed heroes who struggle with inner demons, but when push comes to shove they stand for truth and righteousness. In previous posts I’ve talked about how I love the Arthurian legend and this series has done a great job taking the characters we know and love and placing them in a totally different environment with a fresh perspective.

Of the three characters we hear from, Bedwyr was my favorite. He is the war hero who fights alongside Arthur during their many battles against Picti, Irish and other barbarians. I didn’t really care for Pelleas as we never really got to know him as a person. He was always off to the side helping Merlin on his adventures. Aneirin did grow on me, but I just didn’t click with him. Now I really loved the portrayal of Arthur and Merlin’s friendship. Merlin is more of a mentor, but also a close friend to Arthur. We also had Gwenhwyvar who is an Irish princess that marries Arthur. It was nice to see her more as a warrior maiden as opposed to her and the whole Lancelot thing.

A neat aspect that Lawhead throws in is the Christendom of Britain. We get to see how the faith spreads across all of Britain. Instead of being a magician, Merlin is more of a prophet who is given visions. He is staunch advocate for following Jesu and instructs Arthur in the Lord.

Quotes

“I left him staring into the red-gold embers, searching the myriad paths of the Otherworld for that which would bring him wisdom and courage” (p. 26).

Myrddin gave a bitter laugh and raised a hand to his eyes. “I was blind before, but now I see quite clearly; My Lord is all-sufficient to his own defense. He did not need my help. It is he who saves and protects, not me, never Myrddin” (p. 222).

“Buffeted by wind and battle roar, we stood to the barbarian host and our swords ran red” (p. 306).

While Arthur is a bit slower with more battles then Merlin was, I liked it a lot! You can see my thoughts on Merlin here –Review for Merlin. Now if you aren’t a huge battle fan, this might not be the book for you. There are many technical battles with a fair bit of violence. It is an interesting read though and if you like the Arthurian legend, I’d highly recommend it.

Content – Really, mostly violence. We hear about how battlefields run red with blood. Many characters are killed in battle or mortally wounded. Arthur cuts off heads of certain barbarians. There is one scene with Nimue or Morgian tries to seduce Pelleas. He senses something is not right and resists her.

Moving on Where’d You Go Bernadette?

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Genre – Travel, Family, Mother daughter relationship

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for brief use of strong language and mention of an affair

Synopsis –

Bee’s parents had told her that if she got straight A’s in 8th grade, they’d grant her a wish. All Bee wants is a family trip to Antarctica. Her mom Bernadette freaks out at hearing this. Bernadette hates people and stays home as much as possible. However her and her husband, Elgie agree to take Bee to Antarctica. In order to prepare, Bernadette has her virtual assistant take care of everything from ordering supplies to getting an anti-nausea medication. Things start to derail when Bernadette disappears during an intervention. Where did she go?

My thoughts –

This is an epistolary novel told from Bee’s perspective, but also other characters as well. Bee is combining emails from her mom and putting them together to figure out where her mom went. It’s different odd and quirky all at the same time. I’m not a huge fan epistolary books, as most of the time, I find it hard to connect with the characters. However, I found myself rooting for Bernadette and really liking her relationship with her daughter.

I liked that we got to see the character’s flaws. Bernadette isn’t perfect, she argues with school moms and erects a sign prohibiting trespassing on her property. Bee struggles with her dad and they get into a pretty big fight. Elgie and Bernadette’s marriage is in a rough patch and to compensate that Elgie works more and more. All of this to say, Semple writes some very real characters. I don’t agree with some of the choices they make, but we are all sinners in need of grace. That stands out to me in this book.

There were several sections that dragged on and I had to keep pushing myself through. One part looks back at Bernadette’s life when she was an architect and we see all the hard work she put into 2 homes, one that was destroyed. This began her dislike of people and her escape from California. However, I really liked the end!! I brought things together and made me very happy!

Quotes

“The only way to get to Antarctica is by cruise ship. Even the smallest one has 150 passengers, which translates into me being trapped with 149 other people who will annoy the . . . out of me” (p. 10).

“Not a terrible thing to be getting out of the house while this infernal machine with spikes, telescoping arms and vicious rotors is chewing up my hillside” (p. 55).

Content – Language is used infrequently throughout, with several uses of strong language. Also, Elgie has an affair with his assistant. Bernadette figures it out, but wants to stay together and Elgie drops everything to find his wife.

Lastly, Crossing to Safety

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Genre – Marriage, Friendships

Series – No

Rating – PG

Synopsis –

Hmm, how to give this book a summary. Well, its a story of two families. Larry is looking back at his life and friendship with the Sid and Charity Lang, so we get alternating chapters of his life now vs their younger years. Larry and Sally Morgan have just moved for Larry’s job as an English professor at a university. They are dirt poor and not a friend for miles. They are newlyweds to boot. After a chance meeting with the Lang’s at a dinner party, the Morgan’s and Lang’s become fast friends. We see their friendship blossom throughout the years.

My Thoughts –

I honestly don’t remember how I found this book, but its been on my list to read for while now. While I was sick, this happened to be the book I worked my way though. Cannot say I really loved this one. Its a slow moving story, definitely focused on the characters and their lives. We see them go through losing a job, writing a book, and facing illness. It an intimate look at marriage and friendship and how they impact each other.

Of the characters, I liked Sally the best. She is a patient soul who endures much and remains content. Her friendship with Charity is sweet and these two women help each other through a lot. Charity is a very strong independent women who is very much in charge of the household with Sid just along for the ride. We see this impact their marriage. I liked Sid and there were times when I wanted him to stand up to Charity.

Wagner has very poetical style of writing. He describes the scenery constantly, some of it is very beautiful, but after a while, I kept thinking, ok, let’s move on. He does make you want to travel back in time to the 30’s and just take a walk in the woods or have a picnic like the Lang’s.

I have to say though, I absolutely hated the ending!! It left a very sour taste in my mouth. I kept saying, Why??? After all they have been through, that how you want to die?

I’ll leave you with a good quote

“Dew has soaked everything. I could wash my hands in the ferns, and when I pick a leaf off a maple branch I get a shower on my head and shoulders” (p. 5).

Conclusion –

For some reason, these three books keep popping up in my mind. They are each unique and they linger, making you think about them. By far, Arthur is my favorite of the three! We see a side of the Arthurian legend that we don’t normally get to see. There were several times in Where’d You Go Bernadette? that I laughed out loud. I appreciate a book that can make me laugh.

Have you ever had a book that sticks with you long after you finish the pages? Have you heard or read any of these books? What have you been reading this summer?

Anna

Up next – I am starting The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow.

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.) đŸ˜‰

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