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 Beowolf

Beowolf

Author unknown, translated by Seamus Heaney

Genre – Medieval Epic, Fiction, Poem

Series – No

Rating – PG- for battles with monsters

Age Range – Adult

Synopsis –

We are given a glimpse into the history of two nations: the Geats, & the Danes. The Danish kingdom is under attack by a monster named Grendel. Their plight has been spread far and wide. King Hrothgar cannot protect his people. A noble Geat warrior comes to lend a hand to Hrothgar. Hrothgar welcomes him to Denmark and tells him of monster. His name, Beowolf. He proceeds to battle the beast with his bare hands. Will Beowolf be able to conquer Grendel?

My Thoughts –

I went into this book with a little trepidation as as I knew it was a poem and lengthy. However, Beowolf surprised me! I had heard the gist of the story though a podcast I listen to called Myths & Legends. The book goes into greater detail behind the history of these two nations as well as some back story into the Swedes. You get three epic battles that Beowolf fights.

There are many heroic characters in this tale, although this is definitely more action led with fictional history thrown in. So we don’t really see any character development per say, but we get to know them a little. First, Hrothgar, King of the Danes and son of Halfdane. He is noble and goes from the frying pan into the fire. Hrothgar is an honest man and keeps his word. He is only man still sitting in his mead hall after Grendel’s nightly attacks. Then we get Beowolf who is an extraordinary warrior and above the average man. Yet, humble. I liked Beowolf quite a bit. We spend most of the book following him as he is the hero. Lastly, King Hygelac, King of the Geats. He is a bit more reserved. He didn’t send Beowolf and actually told him not to go assist the Danes. I didn’t really care for him, but he wasn’t really a bad character.

The plot revolves around the three fights: Grendel, His mother, and the dragon. Lots of fairy tales and legends revolve around sets of threes. Of the three fights, I personally found the fight with Grendel’s mom the most interesting.

confused where are we GIF

Although really, how could a person swim underwater for half a day?? It just seemed a little absurd to me!

The dragon fight was cool too. Very Tolkienesque. I mean Tolkien did do a translation of Beowolf so he could have taken the idea of battling dragons and hidden gold. I know Tolkien was influenced by the Tale of the Volsungs.

I was surprised at how much Christianity impacted the author. There are many times where the characters prasise God or mentions creation. There is a great line about how the Almighty placed the stars. I’ll put it below. All of stories comes from the OT. No mentions of Jesus or the cross.

Quotes –

“The leader of the troop unlocked his word-hoard; the distinguished one delivered his answer” (p. 19) – this line had me laughing.

“. . .in his splendour He set the sun and the moon to be earth’s lamplight, lanterns for men” ( p. 9).

“May one so valiant and venturesome come unharmed through the clash of battle” (p. 21)

Language – None

Violence – Nothing graphic or gratuitous. Beowolf wrestles with Grendel and somehow pops his arms off. Grendel kills many Danes. His mom eats someone and beats up Beowolf. The dragon pillages and burns villages. He mortally wounds Beowolf.

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Beowolf is a fascinating story filled withe feasts, battles, and wars fought. It is similar to Sir Gwain and the Green Knight. Both are poems that depict heroes. Also its shorter then I had expected. Half of my copy was in Old English so really only a little over 100 pages. More readable then I had imagined, but not something I will be rereading over and over. Did I like it? Well, I really liked sections of it.

Up Next – After Beowolf, I just finished Watcher by A. J. Everly. Now I think I’m going to give Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater a try.

Over to you guys: Have you read Beowolf? Have any favorite legends?

Anna

Two YA fiction Books I’ve Finished

So, after Ender’s Game, I wanted something light and breezy. These two books were a nice break from heavy topics and were just what I needed. I had seen the first two movies in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. So wanted to give it a try. Now, normally I don’t read romance novels as they seem to be so formulaic and boring. I finished To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before first so I’ll talk about that one and move to The False Prince.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Genre – Romance, YA, Growing-up

Series – First book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy

Rating – PG-13 for innuendo and language

Synopsis –

The three Song girls were supposed to stay together forever. Yet, when Margot the oldest Song girl leaves for college in Scotland, Laura Jean feels devastated. After losing their mom at a young age, the three sisters – Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty form a close bond. So, after Margot’s move Lara Jean decides to try her best to fill Margot’s shoes. Unfortunately, someone sends out her secret love letters that she has kept hidden in a box for years. This causes her life at school to tilt on its axis. What will she do?

My Thoughts –

I enjoyed the movie and thought it was cute. I have seen this book pop up on several blogs and was curious just closely the movie followed it. In between work I wolfed the book down in four days. There were parts of the book that I truly liked better then the movie – All the baking, Kitty, Margot’s relationship with her sisters, their dad.

To be honest, I feel a lot like Lara Jean at times. She is a homebody who is close to her sisters and does well at school. I loved how the author incorporated cooking throughout the book. Lara Jean made some amazing sounding cookies and cupcakes. Made me hungry just reading it. However she could be naive and very dreamy at times. She reminded me a bit of Anne from Anne from Green Gables. Where she has these high expectations of having a boyfriend, only to find it isn’t quite what she expected.

Kitty was hilarious and totally the baby of the family. I loved how supportive their dad was and wanting to be apart of their lives. So many YA books showcase poor parenting, and nice to see a strong dad character. I didn’t really care for Josh, he seemed nice, but more for Margot then Lara Jean. Peter was a bit of a toss up. There were times when I really liked him and how he treated Kitty kindly, but other times Peter was very insecure which bothered me.

Favorite Quote – “I’m a betrayer of the worse kind, because I’m betraying my own sister, and there’s no greater betrayal then that.”

Content – Lara Jean mentions at one point how she and Margot were waiting to do it, until they were older or married. However there is talk at school at her school about who is having sex with who. No descriptions though. Lara Jean asks Margot some questions about it later on. Lara Jean kisses Peter in a hot tub. As well as mild language used throughout, with three occasions of strong language.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Genre – Fantasy, YA, Coming of Age

Rating – PG – for mild sword duel violence

Synopsis –

In the land of Carthya, civil war is about to erupt after the king, queen, and princes death. So one of the regents comes up with a plan to stick a false prince upon the throne. He collects four orphans to train and teach how to be royalty. The only problem, Sage has no wish to be a prince. He is a poor orphan who loves his freedom. Conner meanwhile has plan to break Sage and the others down to do his will. If they don’t become the prince, he will kill them. Sage must make a choice to either obey Conner and save his life, but lose the freedom he holds so dear or disobey and lose his life.

My Thoughts –

Honestly, it was an interesting premise, however it was a bit slow and predictable. I love fantasy and wanted to give this one a chance. It did pick up a bit toward the end and resolved well. I kinda saw the surprise at the end coming though.

At the start Sage got on my nerves for his resistance of authority, but later I came to understand where he was coming from. He did grow on me. I liked Rohen, Imogen, and Mott. Mott being my favorite. He was the only one who saw through Sage’s facade and showed some kindness to the boys. I had difficulty figuring out where Conner stood whether he was evil or just a flawed character. I was impressed at how Imogen was able to pretend to be mute.

Really, the one complaint I have with the author, was how she told us everything as opposed to showing us. I mean we had to tell us all the details of just how Jaron survived. I wished she could have done it more subtly. Wasn’t bad, pretty decent, but not the best either.

Content – one character is shot with an arrow and dies, several sword fights, Sage gets sliced by sword, and beaten by Conner with a whip.

Conclusion –

I’ve been trying to keep my reading up although at times, it feels like I’m forcing myself to keep going. Thankfully, these two books were light and breezy enough, they were just what I needed!! I liked both in different ways and glad I gave them go.

Up Next – I’ll be trying I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, although honestly, not super excited for this. 🙂 Then I’ll finish the TAtBILB series with Always and Forever.

Over to you guys, what have you been reading recently? Have you read either of these books? Hope your spring is going well!

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 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 of Perelandra

Perelandra by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Science fiction, Fantasy, Christian fiction

Series – 2nd book in the Ransom Trilogy

Rating – PG for violence and innuendo

Synopsis –

Ransom has been home a while since his adventure on Malacandra or Mars. Lewis is taking a trip to meet Ransom when stumbling upon Ransom’s house Lewis encounters an Oyarsa. Eventually Ransom shows up an explains to Lewis why he needs his help. The Oyarsa have summoned Ransom to go to Perelandra (Venus), and Lewis is supposed to help Ransom upon his return. Lewis agrees and so off Ransom goes. Perelandra is a lush planet with a variety of unique wildlife. While there, Ransom meets a Green Lady who is looking for her missing husband, the king. Will Ransom be able to figure out why he was called to Perelandra?

My Thoughts –

Well, I am now 2/3 the way through the series and can say that it is different then I had expected. This second book is much more descriptive then the first, not to say that first was descriptive, but this has an elegant feel to it. Again, like Out of the Silent Planet, this book tries to get you to think outside the box as Lewis tackles some tough subjects.

Let’s talk characters! First, yeah, Lewis sort of wrote himself into the book although albeit in a minor role. I found it kinda humorous as not many authors do that. Maybe Tolkien did as well, cannot remember though. The Green Lady is very innocent and naive, partly because she has just been awakened. Her and Ransom have many philosophical conversations, not gonna lie, but some of it went over my head. Yet, she didn’t have much of a personality. She does go through some development, but not in a way you would expect. Also, Weston comes back and this time he is possessed by Satan which makes for an interesting and odd character.

I will say that the plot is slower then the first. There isn’t much action until closer to the end. A fair amount of the story takes place in conversations arguing this and that. I loved the first few chapters with Lewis and his trip to Ransom’s house. For me it just flowed nicely and kept me engaged.

Lewis delves into several topics that Ransom, the Lady, and Weston discuss. One of the first things they go into is what is evil/good. It kinda plays on the Garden of Eden and what would have happened if Eve never sinned. The Lady doesn’t know what evil is, so Ransom tries to explain it. Lewis also mentions myths a couple times and how a myth on our world could be reality on another. Weston tries to get the Lady to disobey Maleldil’s one rule that he gave her and her husband. That is only scratching the surface. 😉

Lewis does a great job weaving Christian elements throughout the story. Here and there Ransom will mention Genesis and the similarities with Perelandra. Multiple times they discuss how Maleldil had been made into a man on our planet and died. Ransom himself is a Christ-like character not in his characteristics, but in how he sacrifices himself. There is also mention of a cleansing of our world. So, there is a lot of Christian content which is nice to see.

Language – One use of mild language.

Violence – Ransom wakes up to find a trail of sliced frog like creatures that are dying. Turns out Weston is mutilating them. Later on Ransom attacks Weston after prompting from Maleldil. They bite, scratch, rip each other up pretty bad. Weston tears Ransom back which bleeds. They chase each other across the world until eventually Ransom pushes him over a cave ledge and he burns up. Ransom realizes as he recovers that he was hurt in his heel. Bleeds for quite a while, meaning weeks.

Innuendo – Upon meeting the Lady, Ransom realizes that both of them are naked. Later on Weston sees Random and the Lady close together (due to Random trying to warn the Lady) and thinks Ransom was seducing her. Weston cannot believe that their interaction truly wasn’t sexual. Near the end Ransom compares something to a women’s breasts.

Conclusion –

This has been an interesting series so far. Lewis delves in deep into some philosophical and spiritual issues all while conveying an interesting story. Although, I cannot say that I liked his characters which ranged from Ransom being idiotic at times to Weston, a pure form of evil. I believe that these books will need to be reread a couple times to fully appreciate what Lewis is doing. Perelandra made me ponder things that I never thought to consider. Would I recommend it? Yes, but take the time to think on what you are reading. 🙂

Review for Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Christian fiction, Fantasy, Science fiction

Series – First book in Cosmic or Space Trilogy

Rating – PG for mild language and peril

Synopsis –

Dr. Ransom is out on a walking holiday when he meets an older women who is worried about her boy. After endeavoring to save the boy, Ransom is drugged and taken aboard a spaceship. His kidnappers are Devine and Weston. They proceed to take Ransom to Malacandra as a sacrifice to the inhabitants who live there. Ransom embarks on a journey across the planet as his misconceptions are challenged by the inhabitants. Will Ransom be able to escape the clutches of Devine and Weston? Or will he be forced to stay on Malacandra forever?

My Thoughts –

This is a tough book to review as there is a lot to unpack in this small book. It is very different from the Narnia books. In fact it almost felt more like J. R. R. Tolkien’s style of writing. Yet, there are a few moments that reminded me of scenes from Narnia. It goes deeper into theology and philosophy then Narnia does, although some of it kinda hidden underneath the plot. Lewis’s goal was to get people to stop thinking about space and think of it in terms of the heavens. I found a lecture that does a pretty good job explaining Lewis’s perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP-7lc52IZ0&t=3s.

The characters were unique and had some interesting characteristics, but focus is on the allegory. Ransom is a likeable character whose preconceptions about the universe around him are stretched as he learns from the creatures living on Malacandra, which is Mars. There are 3 types of creatures that live on Malacandra and each have different gifts: Sorns, Hross, and Pfifktriggi. Hross were the poets and storytellers, while the Sorns were the philosophers, and lastly the Pfifktriggi are inventors. I have to say that I liked the Hross the best as they felt the most fleshed out of the three. I liked how they were simple creatures who took life as it is without worrying about tomorrow.

However, the villains felt flat to me and at times foolish. They never really added much to the story. Plus, they had such a minor role. As a reader, I want the villain to stand out and make me worry that he will actually do something evil to our characters. I never felt that way in this book. A good example is Thanos or Loki from the Marvel universe. 🙂

I have always been fascinated with space and space travel. Even when I was little and learning about the Apollo missions, it excited me that we could travel to the moon. So, I loved how Lewis describes space and gives it beauty. He also gives Mars a lush landscape with a variety of terrains. Ransom goes from odd jungles with purple tree like plants to a barren Alp like place. He gives the creatures on Mars a unique language that Ransom is able to learn. Hands down Lewis is a master wordsmith.

Overall the plot felt slow and methodical. Lewis has a plan and reason for writing this series, and you can tell. There really weren’t any intense moments. It is defiantly a book that makes you think.

Language – Whenever the two antagonists are around, they use mild language. A few uses of “God” as exclamation by villains. Ransom does not swear.

Violence – Devine and Weston threaten a boy and try to kidnap him. They try to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the Sorns. They shoot and kill a couple Hross as they believe the Hross are hostile.

Innuendo – A couple mentions of procreating with the Mars inhabitants, mostly as a joke. At one point during there space travel, the ship becomes so hot that they only wear weighted belts. As a character is traveling, he notices that an island looks like a women’s breast.

Conclusion –

It was really interesting to dip my toes into something by Lewis other then the Narnia series. I have read The Screwtape Letters, but it has been a while. So, I really enjoyed getting to go on a space odyssey to Mars! It gave me a new perspective on the heavens. Normally we think of space an empty void, but there is beauty and creativity in all that God made. I would highly recommend this book. Although don’t expect it to be a light read. 😉

Review for The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King by T. H. White

Genre – Fantasy, Romance, Classic

Stand-alone novel

Rating – PG-13 for fantasy violence and mild innuendo

Synopsis –

The story begins with a boy named Arthur or Wart as that is the nickname they gave him. Wart lives with Sir Ector and his his son Kay as no one knows who Wart’s parents were. When Wart’s tutor quits quite unexpectedly, he goes on a quest to find a new one. He encounters Merlyn, a wise wizard, in the forest and brings him back to the castle. Merlyn instructs both Kay and Arthur for many years. As part of Wart’s instruction, Merlyn transforms him into various animals in order to teach him valuable lessons. Many years pass before one day Wart pulls a sword out of a stone to give to Kay. This leads to his eventually becoming king. Once Arthur becomes king, he has many adventures in trying to bring unity to England. He brings together a group of knights to reform England. Will Arthur and his band of knights be able to bring unity before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

First off, The Once and Future King is composed of four separate books. They all kinda go together, but they each tell a separate section of Arthur’s life. For some reason it took me quite a while to read this. Not sure exactly why??! Just glad I finally finished!! Overall, it gave an interesting look at King Arthur that is different from the previous books I had read. This was more personal. We could hear what went on his head and his conversations with those around him. Unlike King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which focused more on telling a legend. I enjoyed this book more!

The characterization in this was great! You could see these characters and feel for them. They felt more human compared to some other tellings which make them out to be legends. I actually liked Lancelot’s character, which was weird for me because in the past I kinda hated how arrogant he was. White does a great job of making this flawed hero conflicted and torn about some his past decisions. Arthur also has some great development that occurs throughout the book. We spent the most time with Arthur and see him transform from boy to wizened king. The one character that was a thorn in my side was Guenever. Her character just didn’t sit well with me. Something about how she is portrayed, but I can’t put my finger on it. The four Orkney brothers while childish at times, were fine, it was just Guenever that didn’t belong.

The plot was slower as it kinda built up the characters from the ground up. We get introduced to many of them while they were still young. So there were a few sections that truly dragged on. One especially slow section was Wart being an ant!! It had no connection to the actual plot! Also, a few political sections that felt like they went on forever!

White has quite the sense of humor. Especially in the first two books he would break the third person narrative and jump to first person. He would then try to describe something using modern terms. I kinda liked this. There was one particularly humorous scene with the Questing Beast and King Pellinore where I truly laughed out loud! 😉

I would not call this a Christian book, despite the fact that there are many Christian themes and several characters are considered Christians. The author makes a couple references to evolution and some hints that God might not exist. You can tell the author has a different view then some of the characters. It isn’t shoved in your face though, and oddly enough he does quote from the Bible.

Language – There is some mild language throughout the book. Mostly the same two words used over and over.

Violence – Honestly, there wasn’t much despite this being a book about knights. Yes, there a few battles or tournaments where knights get injured, but not described. Knights knock each other out with their sword. Maybe a mention or two of blood on the grass. There are a couple jousts to the death. Again not much description just a blurb that they died. There is a scene where a women is tied to a stake to be burnt to death for infidelity (She gets rescued).

Innuendo – First, I’ll mention that there are a couple times where the author describes a knight as being naked and then later mentions him having clothes on. So I believe it means that they didn’t have armor not that they were truly naked. Second, is Lancelot’s and Guenever’s relationship. In this story, Arthur is warned beforehand that he should watch out. He dismisses the warning and pays for it. Lancelot hates Guenever until an event occurs where he hurts Guenever’s feelings. This is what sparks him to fall in love with her. Lancelot’s uncle calls him out on it, but Lancelot doesn’t listen. They kiss several times and many characters try to tell the King that Lancelot is sleeping with his wife. Lancelot tries to end it on multiple occasions. Lastly, there are a couple mentions of other character’s infidelity, just brief mentions.

Conclusion –

This gives a good look at Arthur and how he truly wanted to change England for the better. We get to see what makes these classic character tick. There is also a brief history lesson thrown in which I enjoyed. If you want a book that focuses on a smaller cast of Arthurian characters, this is a good choice. While it has some content issues, overall a well done fantasy!

Cannot wait to hear what you all are reading!! Have you read any King Arthur stories? Any favorite retellings?

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 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