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 Greenwillow

Greenwillow by B. J. Chute

Genre – Romance, Village Life, Cozy

Series – No

Rating – G – Pretty clean

Synopsis –

Welcome to Greenwillow, where things tend to stay the same. Until an unwanted preacher comes claiming to be from the Bishop. Greenwillow is unsure how to handle this as they already have a preacher. They eventually settle for holding 2 services on Sunday due to their different preaching styles. Then we meet the Briggs family whose father/husband left them to go wandering When the Amos Briggs returns, both preachers go trying to convince him to stay. Gideon the oldest Brigg child, fears for his call to wander as he loves working the farm. Dorrie is a nearby adopted orphan who supports Gideon and wishes that his call won’t come.

My Thoughts –

To start this year has been a great year for audiobooks! I had this on my 2021 list and was surprised they had Greenwillow as its a bit older. I found this audiobook quaint and charming. The narrator is wonderful and did unique voices for each character which I appreciated!

Throughout the book, Chute creates some beautiful and lyrical descriptions whether it be discussing the Meander river or Dorrie’s tarts. It’s done in a way that makes you want to visit the village of Greenwillow. It follows this village through all the seasons which was neat to see.

This is a very character driven novel that shows their everyday life. For me the characters felt real and life-like. I connected with Dorrie and her life at Miss Madie and Miss Emma’s house. She is a soft spoken character who shows kindness wherever she goes. Of the Briggs family, Micah was my favorite. Quite the bubbly personality and very curious! I chuckled at granny’s antics with her turnip and tramping through the snow to save their cow. The two reverends got on my nerves, not sure if it was their bickering or something else.

The plot takes it time to develop, kinda wanders as we are introduced to the cast of characters. If you are looking for something fast paced or with action, this isn’t it. Nothing really out of the ordinary occurs, which was pleasant. Reminded me of the Miford books by Jan Karon.

The theological elements of the book were kinda odd. The two preachers -Lapp & Birdsong held vastly different views. Lapp preached about hell and needing to repent or the devil will catch you, while Birdsong took the everyone is happy and saved approach. I so wanted a bit about being saved by grace and the works of Christ, but mostly focus is on works. I think their Catholic We did see a turnaround at the end, but didn’t feel quite right.

Language – None

Violence – None

Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

Greenwillow takes you back in time before technology and the internet. Where a villagers find a lost pig big news and a cow being born a proud accomplishment. I’d highly recommend this one!! Especially if you are looking for a change in pace!

Up Next – Finishing up The Power of One, which is our Church’s book club pick and The Inheritance Games.

How is your spring going? What have you been reading/listening too? Have you heard of Greenwillow?

Anna

Review for The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Genre – Adventure, Historical, Suspense, Romance

Series – No

Rating – PG-13 for violence, death, and an affair

Synopsis –

Edmund Dantes is a young sailor returning from a fated voyage. He is brimming with joy as he has his father, a future as captain of the Pharaon, and is engaged to his beautiful fiance, Mercedes. He does not realize the dark turn of events that will change his life forever. Three men sit at an outdoor cafe create an anonymous note that paints Dantes in a dangerous light. Their names are Fernand, Danglars, & Caderousse. At his betrothal feast, he is put under arrest for being in possession of a Bonapartist letter. Despite his innocence, the deputy crown prosecutor finds his letter which betrays his father’s Bonapartist allegiance and covers it up by sending Dante to prison. Dante is in prison for 14 years. Will he find an escape? What will become of three men who sent an innocent man to his doom?

My Thoughts –

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I’m back!! Sorry about my long absence!! I feel like it’s been forever sense I have written a post! Let’s just say life has been busy. 😉 Plus, it took me a while to actually finish this book. Was it worth the several weeks it took?? Absolutely!!! I loved going back and rereading this classic. There were sections of the plot that I had vaguely remembered and others that felt completely new to me. Anyway, here I am and I’m going to put down my thoughts.

To start this is a massive book!! My copy is 1,243 pages. I believe War and Peace was just a tad longer, but not by much. Which is kinda funny cause The Count of Monte Cristo picks up only a few years in history after War & Peace . 😉 There are many subplots woven throughout and affect the main plot in intricate ways. Yet, they all come together and it eventually makes sense why we had all these odd sections of the story. Trust me on this! It does pay off, massively! Real quickly, there are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read it yet tread carefully!

Now, with a such a large book, you would except lots of characters. And there you are right!! There is a ton of characters some from the days when Dante was a young lad, who come back after his escape. Others seem to be completely new *cough* Albert and Franz, looking at you. Dumas does tend to help the reader out by reminding us occasionally who everyone is which is handy. The few characters I struggled with were Albert’s bigwig friends. Who don’t play a major role, but tend to pop up every now and again.

Many of the characters you cannot help but fall in love with like the Abbe Faria, Valentine, Mercedes, Morrel & Dantes himself. I remembered liking the Abbe from my previous read and I found I liked his wit and immense knowledge of the world and languages that he passes on to Dantes. Valentine is so sweet and innocent & I love her love for her grandfather, who at first seemed kinda a scoundrel, but does grow on me. Her relationship with Morrel is an interesting romance. They have so many obstacles to overcome, and yet Morrel is patient. It’s hard to pinpoint what I like about Mercedes as she is more of a complex character who for the majority of the book sits backstage. She loves her son and has endured some tough times.

Then we come to Dantes. What a character arc he goes on!! I kinda had a love/hate relationship with him. On the one hand his friends betrayed him and married his fiance so kinda deserve his revenge. On the other Dantes becomes consumed by his revenge and at times allows the innocent to suffer. Dantes does do it with class and almost uses other characters to pull the trigger if you will. His climax at the end of the book got to me. After seeing what had occurred at the Villefort home, he is overcome with just how far he went down this path. Does have regrets with how everything happened? Yes, I believe so. We see a bit of it with how he treats Morrel. Does he get a happy ending? To an extent, yes.

And what about the villains you ask? Well, most of them I truly despised. Danglars being the worst scoundrel. Ugh, his whole family is rather atrocious.

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Fernand was second to Danglars. He actually sent the evil letter. Caderousse while despicable, wasn’t a complete goner. I had hope for him, sadly that didn’t help. Villefort was the only scoundrel you feel a bit sorry for.

I did want to briefly mention the pacing. For being an adventure novel, it starts off with quite a bang. The first 2oo pages or so move quickly and set everything in motion. Then after that we get a lull.

Season 2 Eye Roll GIF by Friends

There were a few chapters that really dragged, but the whole Roman Bandits chapter could have been completely cut. No use at all, except to give background to a minor character. Just why??

Before I finish, I did want to mention how surprised I was at how Dumas wove some philosophical and religious discussions into the book , similar to War & Peace. There is a brilliant quote during Dantes imprisonment, “God is the last refuge. Such unfortunates, who should begin with Our Lord, only come to trust in Him after exhausting all other sources of hope” (Dumas, p.131). Later, Dante truly believed he was being used by God to minister God’s vengeance. Many of the characters take to praying to God throughout the book which you just don’t see in many books these days. At the very end Dantes comes to realize that the Almighty is the only one who can hold supreme power and the ultimate judge.

Language – Mild infrequent uses of language. Mostly kept within the PG realm.

Violence – There is quite a bit of it. You have a character killed by Caderousse in cold blood for money. During an affair, Villefort tries to kill a baby, turns out someone saves the baby. Mrs. Villefort poisons several members of her family, again for money. Fernand commits suicide. Several other characters die various deaths.

Innuendo – There are two affairs that occur. The first is between Mr. Danglars & Mrs. Villefort. Theirs is pretty subtle. I missed it at first only later do you see its implications. Nothing overt though. Then you have Mrs. Danglars and Lucian Debray. Again, Dumas is subtle so you blink you’ll miss it.

Conclusion –

Honestly, it has been wonderful to read this classic again!! This is a book that I will probably return to in the future as well. There are so many good themes throughout and I picked up on different things this go around. The characters were not so cut and dry. They had depth to them. If you haven’t read this book yet, I’d highly recommend picking it up!! I am hoping to add more classics to my reading list. Any suggestions?

* Up next I will be starting a lighter read – an installment in The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series & listening to Silas Marner (a reread for me).

Have you read it? What are your thoughts? How is your winter going?

Anna

Review for Nine Coaches Waiting

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

Genre – Suspense, Mystery, Romance

Series – No, it’s a stand-alone novel

Rating – PG – Attempted murder, mild language throughout

Synopsis –

Linda Martin has just accepted a job in France as a nanny for a nine year old boy. In order to acquire the job, Linda has omitted the fact that she grew up in France before she came to England. She is eager to return and looking for something fresh. Yet, upon her arrival, the aunt and uncle are giving off some strange vibes. Linda dismisses them and endeavors to settle herself in her new environment. As the weeks turn into months, there occurs several “accidents” involving, her charge, Philippe. Who is causing these accidents? And why?

My thoughts –

This was a reread for me as I had read it several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wonderful to return to France and the Chateau Valmy. The book was written in the 50s and has a cozy air about it. I loved this book so much that I bought it to add to my ever growing collection. 😉

Alright, let’s get down to business. The characters are superb and have a depth to them. Linda is a plucky and courageous young women who you can easily root for as she faces the dangers surrounding her young charge. I liked Philippe; he has wisdom beyond his young years. He experienced what no child should have to experience as both of his parents died suddenly. These events have lead to Philippe’s quietness and thoughtfulness. Then you get to Raoul. I have to say that I really liked Raoul. Now, he can be an idiot at times, but he cares both for Philippe and Linda. Although, I do have say that he falls for her rather quickly, but oh well. You can’t have everything.

Honestly this was a hard book to put down, despite having read it before. There were a few scenes that I remembered like the Easter Ball, but I couldn’t remember how everything turned out. Stewart does a great job dragging you into story, yet also moving the plot along at a decent pace. Also, Stewart does a job creating beautiful descriptions that she uses throughout the novel. They reminded me a bit of the descriptions in The Blue Castle.

The one thing I didn’t care for was the ending. There was a whole misunderstanding that occurs and it is only resolved on like the last few pages. I wish there could have been a bit more to tidy things. I would have loved to see where Linda ends up and how Philippe handles the whole situation.

Language – Mild language throughout, mostly kept to what you would hear in PG TV show. 1 use of God’s name in vain.

Violence – Stewart keeps the violence down to a minimum. Mostly, the threat is what you can’t see. There is a shooting accident out in the woods where they try to shoot at a character. The character is not hurt though. Also, they try to cause him to fall off balcony. Again though a character’s ingenuity, she protects him. Lastly, at the very end a character commits suicide (although a character thinks he was murdered at first). It isn’t described in detail.

Innuendo – Two characters fall in love. They kiss twice. Some talk of falling in love. Gossip gets out that two characters run off together, but in reality they didn’t.

Conclusion –

Overall for a cozy mystery, this one is really enjoyable. Yes, there is a bit of love at first sight, but the romance is secondary to the mystery. I love cozy mysteries that have that old fashioned feel to them. So many cozy mysteries today feel over done or have cardboard characters. Its always refreshing to find a mystery that is different and unique. This would make for a great summer read as it is relatively short, but enjoyable. I would say that this book is aimed at adults.

How are your summer’s going? What have you been reading?

Anna

Review for The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

Genre – Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Series – Standalone novel

Rating – PG – Thematic elements

Synopsis –

Valancy Stirling is tired of being told what to do. She lives with her mother and her aunt who prefer nothing to change. They do not even allow Valancy to move things around her room. So on Valancy’s 29 birthday she decides to change things up a bit. She gives up pretending to enjoy things she hates, and do things in her own way. Which may lead to Valancy finding her own Blue Castle. Will her family be able to understand her?

My thoughts –

I really enjoyed this novel!! It felt different then the Anne series. I almost thought it was written by a different writer. The Blue Castle is aimed at adults and has more of a grown up feel to it. It also takes place after the Anne books as things are more modern. Several characters have cars and there are movies playing as well.

I really connected with Valancy’s character. She feels like she has done nothing productive and for her self in her life. Her family is overbearing and she is the women who is always in the shadows. Then she gets a letter that changes everything and gives Valancy a new look on life. I liked Valancy’s growth and change throughout the story. She takes a step and helps someone else who is suffering. She even makes quit a sacrifice for someone she loves. I could just relate to this story.

There are many descriptions of nature and scenery. It felt like you were outdoors, fishing and exploring with these characters.

There is quite a variety of interesting characters thrown into this story. I actually liked Roaring Abel, despite his drinking. He was one of the few honest characters and told it like it is. Cissy is such a sweet character. She has had such a hard life and I loved how Valancy befriends her. Barney was odd. It took a while to actually like him as a character. Towards the end though, he and Valancy had a strong relationship.

Although the plot was a little slow, there was some charm to it. There is not much action and mostly all character driven. It was nice to have a book that was about normal everyday events, but some sections were a wee bit boring. The end has a couple firecrackers that were surprising. Someone should make this into a TV series or movie.

Language – Mentions of people swearing, no actual words though. Maybe 2 uses of mild language.

Violence – None

Innuendo – Valancy attends a back woods party where there is drinking and dancing. A couple men try to force her to dance with them. Barney ends up coming in and saving Valancy. The town busybodies gossip about Valancy and Barney. Two characters kiss and get married.

Conclusion –

If you love the Anne series and are looking for something with a similar feel, I would recommend this book!! It has a different flavor to it, but it is a sweet story. Sometimes you need an uplifting book like this.

Quick Reviews – 5 Books I read

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

The Story People by Heather Kaufman

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

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

Rating – PG for some mild innuendo

Corus the Champion Lengends of Karac Tor by D. Briggs

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

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

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

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

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

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

Rating – PG for fantasy violence

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

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

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

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

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

Rating – PG for heavy themes and mild language

Haatchi and Little B by Wendy Holden

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

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

Rating – G

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

Anna