The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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The Mists of Avalon is the last book from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Woohoo–I’m done!  I think that I had read one other King Arthur tale sometime in the dim past, but I didn’t remember too much about it.  So with this book, I felt like I was learning most of the tale for the first time.

Premise:

This book tells the King Arthur saga from the vantage point of the women who were involved in the story.  A very welcome and interesting perspective!  It starts with Viviane (The Lady), Merlin, Uther, and Igraine.  From there the story continues through the next two generations–to Gwydion, Galahad, etc.  It’s not only a story about King Arthur and his court, but about Druids and Christians vying for dominance in Britain.  There is so much that happens in this 800+ page book that I couldn’t comment on all of it even if I wanted to.  (And trust me, I do not want to.)

My thoughts:

I’m not going to lie to you, this is a tough book to read.  Between the somewhat slow start, the sometimes relaxed pace of the narrative, the formal language, and the sheer volume of pages, it is a challenge to get through.  I’d say that definitely once you’re about a third of the way in, you’re going to be so caught up in the drama, intrigue and soap opera-esqueness of the book that you’ll want to keep going.  You will feel like it’s never going to end, though.  There’s just no getting past that.

I loved the plot.  It was very complex and even though I new the gist of the story, I was still gobbling it up to see what would happen next.  The cast of characters was also superb.  There were so many–all with different personalities, loyalties, motivation.  You’re bound to find at least a couple of characters whom you can identify with.  Personally, I loved Morgaine (despite her many mistakes and imperfections), and despised Gwenhwyfar.  And there were no clear-cut lines between Druid and Christian.  Each side had its share of heroes, heretics, bigots and pigheadedness.

You should also know that the discussion of religion plays a very large part in this book.  It’s a book about people, yes, but it’s also just as much about religion.  The beliefs of Christians and Druids are compared, criticized, dissected, scoffed at.  If you’re easily offended by religious criticisms or don’t want to read about religion, then this is not the book for you.  In the end, I think the author arrives at a fair and equitable conclusion on the issue of religion as it relates to the King Arthur story.

The Mists of Avalon is a story full of the things of life–love, lust, hatred, tragedy, pride, ambition, heartbreak, sacrifice, birth and death, good and evil.  It’s a story that anybody can relate to because life’s most important concerns don’t change over time.

I would recommend this book to adults because of the pervasive sexual themes.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of sexual scenes
  • Some violence
  • Talk & criticism of religion (Druid & Christian)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Thrift Store – Young Adult Reading Challenge #1

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Having finished the romance reading challenge, I’m ready for a break from that particular genre.  I found these five books in the young adult/juvenile section at my local Goodwill and am looking forward to reading them!

I read the Twilight series several years ago, but never formally reviewed them.  And I have to say that I don’t mind reading them again.  Even though they’re rather teenager-y books, they are also strangely addictive.  The Hunger Games series has been recommended to me by more than one person, but this will be the first time I’ve even taken a look inside one.  What can I say?  I tend to shy away from the latest craze, sometimes shunning that item for years.  There must be a contrariness built into my nature.

READING LIST:

Favorite Book Criticisms #1

When I finish reading a book and writing a review for it, I like to look at other online reviews for that particular title.  It’s fun to see how my thoughts compare with the rest of the general populace.

Sometimes when I read other peoples reviews, I’m struck by a particularly insightful or downright funny observation.  Some of them are so good that I thought it would be fun to start a new series which shares my favorite book criticisms from other reviewers.

Most quotes will be short, and I won’t necessarily say which book they are commenting on.  The point is to simply enjoy the wit and observations of others.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

 

“Like many epic fantasies, this book is mostly about people taking long walks.”

Alex Falcone

 

“You’re better off burning your money than buying this book.”

K. Brooks

 

“In conclusion, if readers went before a judge, the judge would grant a divorce and Patterson would be forced to pay retribution to every reader who suffered through this wreck of a book.”

Cookiecrook

 

“Suddenly out of the blue, the guy who has been treating her like a piece of meat loves her. Really? Dangerous message. Men who mistreat you do not love you.”

Reader

 

“WHY WOULD SOMEBODY MAKE THESE BOXES? What wizards (or box makers) thought it would be fun to create three magical jewelry boxes that might accidentally blow up the whole world?

I can’t stress enough how bad an idea this is. Whoever did this is the stupidest.”

Alex Falcone

 

“Publishers would do well not to rush with books that are not yet ready for publication. The fact an author is well known is no excuse for not demanding quality. As a matter of fact, one should expect more from a seasoned author.”

Elisabeth M. Saada

 

“There’s only so many times you can read that before dying at the crappiness of it all.”

Mary

 

“Honeymoon is one of the laziest, loosely edited bits of slop I have ever come across. The plot is about as formulaic as can be, and is as digestible as the poison used within these pages.”

clifford

 

“The girl with the GIGANTIC SECRET tells him that an evil man named Darken Rahl wants to take over everything and kill everybody (Because he’s evil, that’s why.) In addition to having a confusing part of speech for a name, Darken is a horrible baddy who likes to cut people up and play in their gore. What? That’s not obviously evil enough for you? His best friend is a pedophile. There you go. Simplicity.”

Alex Falcone

September 2016 Book Haul & Unboxing

My September book haul is up!  I was so excited to set up a new filming area, even though it’s quite simple.  I can’t wait to add my own personal touches (I have to admit that Funko Worf is an awesome start)!  Since most of our books are packed away for moving, I really had to scour the house to find books to put on my bookshelf.

 

The books from this month are a very odd assortment–homeschooling, magazines, blogging, educational.  Whatevs–I am an odd duck, so I guess it just fits!

 

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

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Wizard’s First Rule is the second to last book from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Almost done!  I had never heard of this book, nor the author, Terry Goodkind.  It can be a little intimidating starting a thick book with no clue about whether or not it will be a good one.

Wizard’s First Rule is an epic fantasy adventure story in which Richard (the Seeker) has to defeat the evil Darken Rahl.  He is aided by a beautiful but powerful woman, a wizard, and a few others.  The majority of the story is taken up by their journey to find a magical object which must be hidden from Rahl, and by the many scrapes they find themselves in.

I am still conflicted about this book. Was it good? Was it bad? Did it mess with my brain? Probably so. There are parts of it that I really like and parts of it that made my stomach churn.

The frequent graphic violence (including sexual violence), is just so overwhelming. If that had been watered down dramatically, I think I might have liked the novel more. Of course the writing isn’t stellar, but it’s hard to fairly assess anything else in the book when all you can think about is a dominatrix, a pedophile, and people’s heads cracking open like melons.

What I liked:

  • I liked the variety and different types of characters.  It seems like there was a lot of thought and imagination that went into the diverse inhabitants of this fantasy world.  You get to see people who are pure and people who are quite diabolical.
  • I liked that they were going on an epic adventure and that their journey took many detours (it reminded me of The Lord of the Rings quest).
  • The beginning and end of the book.  The last third of the book, in particular, really picks up in plot twists and complexity.  Even though there were parts of this book that I didn’t like, I will probably read the next in the series because the end of the book was an interesting segue into the next.

What I didn’t like:

  • The main characters seemed almost bipolar at times, going from saying they would protect someone with their life one minute to holding a sword against that person’s throat the next.  Real people don’t act that way, but hey, maybe they were under extreme stress?
  • I felt like the book could have been shortened by not repeating phrases over and over.
  • One of the characters seems to me to be almost a rip-off of the Gollum character from Lord of the Rings.
  • I understand that terrible things happen in war, but personally I was very uncomfortable with how candid the author was about things like sexual exploitation and gory violence.
  • The middle of the book was more difficult to get through–I had to force myself to keep reading.  It seemed like it was lacking any urgency in keeping the story going.

So, there you have it–my mixed feelings on this book.  I feel like there are definitely people out there who would really dislike this book because of some of the intense subject matter.  If you’re uncomfortable with the occult, gory violence, or sexual themes, I would recommend you skip this one.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of violence & gore
  • Not very subtle references to sexual violence against women & children
  • Sexual themes, including S&M and references to anatomy
  • 2 instances of the b-word
  • Occult themes

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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An Amish Harvest: Four Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Amy Clipston, Vannetta Chapman

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I have never read an Amish romance novel before, so decided to try one out and see what all the fuss is about.  An Amish Harvest is a short book which consists of four novellas by four different authors.  The stories all revolve around the Amish way of life.

Because the stories are by four different authors, you will notice some differences in writing style and word usage.  The styles are all similar enough that it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.  The first story has to do with an Amish widow and an English (what the Amish call non-Amish people) widower; the second is about a man and woman who bond after an accident; the third tells the story of a couple of young people who are different from others in their community and find understanding in one another; the last one is about a mystery and how a couple of middle-aged people bond during the shared experience.  Please, don’t ply me for details–it will ruin the stories for you!

I enjoyed the first two stories very much.  They were engaging and the characters were likeable.  The third story was pretty good, though it was missing a certain something to make it sparkle.  I didn’t enjoy the fourth story at all.  It seems like the characters weren’t very endearing and the plot was not engaging enough.

I feel like this book would appeal to women who love a wholesome love story.  It’s a fun, short read that could fill up a couple of cozy evenings on the couch.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided here.

Grieving the Loss of a Loved One: A Devotional of Comfort as You Mourn by Kathe Wunnenberg

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I chose Grieving the Loss of a Loved One as my free book from BookLook Bloggers to review.  Rest assured, I will be sharing my honest opinion with you.

This book is a devotional which is meant to help the reader work through their grief over the death of a loved one, or someone else who was close to them.  Each entry contains a passage of Scripture, a short story or anecdote, a prayer, and blank lines to record the progress of your own grief journey.  There are 52 devotions, so this could conceivably take you through an entire year.

When ordering the book, I didn’t at first realize that it was a devotional.  I got it mainly to read the author’s insights on grief, not to use it as a journaling exercise to work through my own grief.  Although I won’t be taking advantage of the journal portion of the book, there are still enough short entries that make it worth my while to read.  I have enjoyed the pertinent stories that go with each day’s theme.  It’s been helpful to learn how other people have dealt with their grief.  I also appreciate the thoughtful prayers at the end.  Sometimes it can be hard to put into words the things you are feeling when you’re grieving.

I would recommend this book as an appropriate gift to someone who has lost a loved one who they were very close to.  It’s overkill for what I term casual grief, and is aimed more at long-term grief.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided here.

The Quick by Lauren Owen

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The Quick is the third book that I’ve read from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  I was actually quite looking forward to reading this one because it involved old London and vampires.  I seem to have a hang-up on those two things.  Also, the cover of this book is really appealing.  I know that’s a silly reason to like a book, but there you have it.  I’m a silly person.

Generally, this book is about a young man (James) who goes to London to try his hand at writing and subsequently disappears.  His sister (Charlotte) becomes concerned and goes in search of him.  She discovers that there is a hidden underground vampire world in London which her brother has become entangled in.  The rest of the story is taken up by her trying to locate, free, and aid her brother.

There are many side characters who come in at various parts of the book.  For some of them we are given extensive or at least some background information.  Others simply appear and disappear without the reader really knowing who they are.  This was somewhat mystifying because some of the characters who are given extensive back story (Mould, in particular), don’t feature all that prominently in the remainder of the story, or their back story seems a bit irrelevant.  There are some characters who were intriguing and whose stories may have been very interesting, if the author had bothered to share them at all.  In particular, I would have liked to have known more about Burke, Liza, and the others associated with Mrs. Price.

The last part of the book was very disappointing, in my opinion.  It seems like it was a lame attempt at tying up the loose ends of Charlotte and Arthur’s lives.  There was no resolution, no satisfaction, not enough follow up with many of the characters, and no clear answer about what happened to James.  I was pretty upset with the way it ended.  It felt like a waste of time to read a book which had such a lame ending.

Don’t get me wrong, the book has its strengths.  It is well written and flows fairly well within each scene.  (Though the way it jumps around between different characters and time periods is very disorienting.)  I liked the majority of the characters and their complexity.  I liked the diversity in settings and circumstances.  However, those things weren’t enough to overcome the sense I got that this was a wasted story.  When you spend the whole book waiting for some kind of resolution or closure to the problem, and that doesn’t come to fruition, it’s disappointing.

Maybe others wouldn’t be as hung-up about this issue as I am.  It’s hard to say.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence & gore
  • Some bad language
  • Mild sexual scene between two men

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Glass Dragon by Irene Radford

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Reading The Glass Dragon has brought me back to my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  It will be good to pick up with this challenge because I really enjoy fantasy books.  This book is part of a trilogy, though I only have the first book.  I’m not sure if I’ll purposely seek out the next two, or wait around until I spot them secondhand.

I enjoyed this book and finished it in a couple of days.  The action was able to keep me interested and flipping pages.  The gist of the story is that there is a kingdom whose power is tied to dragons.  The kingdom, however, is waning in power because people have come to view dragons with suspicion and hate them, even going so far as to kill them.  A man who wants to seize power for himself takes advantage of this situation and endeavors to set himself up to take over as ruler.

There are three main characters who help fight the forces of evil–a rogue magician, a man-wolf, and a witchwoman.  They embark on a quest to save the last female dragon in the realm, and along the way they discover the power they are capable of wielding.

There is some kind of strange, unexplained sexual link between the three characters.  I didn’t quite grasp what the author was getting at (for which I am thankful).  Once that little facet of the story emerged, things started to get a bit awkward.

I think the thing I like most about this book is the creativity used in making up this enchanted world.  The reader gets descriptions of its customs, animals, geography, and more.  Its complexity reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, but not nearly as detailed.

I would recommend this book for older teens and up because of the sexual themes.

Possible Objections:

  • Some sexual scenes
  • A bit of violence

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

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Twelve Years a Slave is the final book in my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge!  I am so excited to give away the books from this challenge to one lucky winner–so stay tuned!

I was really looking forward to reading this book because I’ve been studying slavery and other social justice issues since I was a child.  For some reason, those difficult subjects have always fascinated me.  I had never heard of Solomon Northup, nor seen the recent movie that is based on this book.

First, you should know that this book uses old-fashioned language.  That’s just something that you’ll have to get used to.  The words may not flow off your tongue like melted butter, but you should really stick with it because of how truly fascinating the story is.

Second, you will notice that this story seems to be choked with minute details that wouldn’t really be necessary for simply telling the story.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, Solomon had to establish his right in representing the true state of slavery by proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his story was undeniably true.  All of the small details in the book are facts that could be checked and corroborated.  Additionally, Solomon published this book a short time after he was rescued from captivity, hoping that by sharing his story he could educate people about the truth of slavery.  (Remember, at this time there were people who actually believed that the slave preferred his state of bondage to a life of freedom.)  As a free, educated colored man, he had a unique perspective to offer.  He had been accustomed to freedom, then that freedom was stripped from him and he was forced to endure slavery.  Twelve years later he was restored to freedom again.  Upon his return, he could give utterance to the true state of slavery in an observant, introspective, and educated manner.  He could speak to whites at the time on an equal footing (at least intellectually).  So, while the details may get tedious and seem irrelevant at times, they served a very specific purpose when the book was written.

I must say that I really enjoyed this book.  I didn’t enjoy reading about the hardships and injustices, but I appreciated learning about Solomon’s experiences.  Mainly he shares events and information about his daily life in a matter-of-fact tone.  He also shares the things he felt and what others said.  The reader is expected to arrive at their own conclusion as to whether or not slavery is a just institution.  I appreciate that Solomon appealed to the reader to take what they had read and consult their own conscience about what was fair or not.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

“They left me in the cabin, that I might rest.  Blessed be sleep!  It visiteth all alike, descending as the dews of heaven on the bond and free.  Soon it nestled to my bosom, driving away the troubles that oppressed it, and bearing me to that shadowy region, where I saw again the faces, and listened to the voices of my children, who, alas, for aught I knew in my waking hours, had fallen into the arms of that other sleep, from which they never would arouse.” (p. 94)

“‘If I was in New-England,’ returned Bass, ‘I would be just what I am here.  I would say that Slavery was an iniquity, and ought to be abolished.  I would say there was no reason nor justice in the law, or the constitution that allows one man to hold another man in bondage.  It would be hard for you to lose your property, to be sure, but it wouldn’t be half as hard as it would be to lose your liberty.  You have no more right to your freedom, in exact justice, than Uncle Abram yonder.  Talk about black skin, and black blood; why, how many slaves are there on this bayou as white as either of us?  And what difference is there in the color of the soul?  Pshaw! the whole system is as absurd as it is cruel.'” (p. 179)

Because of the subject matter and language, I would suggest this book for teens and up.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of violence
  • Racial epithets
  • Bad language — mostly the d-word
  • Some talk of sexual exploitation

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Fault in Our Stars – Movie 2014

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I feel like I’ve just had my butt kicked emotionally by this movie.  The Fault in Our Stars is the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  I loved the book and I’m glad to say that I loved the movie, as well.

First, the main characters (Hazel and Gus) were cast and acted extremely well.  I was fully convinced that they were the real characters and that their story was true.  There was such a wonderful spark and connection between them which really came through in the movie.  It doesn’t take much to imagine that they really are in love.

I don’t want to completely ruin the story for somebody who hasn’t read/seen it before.  In a nutshell, the story is about two teens who have cancer.  They fall in love and learn how to deal with their circumstances.  Their family and friends also learn how to deal with it all.  That is the very vague explanation.  I have left a lot of good bits out of my explanation–bits that you should find out about by reading the book or seeing the movie (or both).

This story explores the complexities of life, death, what makes a life worth living, friendship, love.  It hits deep on several topics and imparts new insights and feelings in the viewer.  This is one of those rare stories that helps you focus again on the important things in life.

A couple of my favorite parts of the movie are when Hazel and Gus are talking while Isaac is freaking out on Gus’ trophies in the background (hilarious!), and Gus’ letter to Hazel at the end.  That letter was amazing and it perfectly wrapped up the story.

I would highly recommend this movie to both teens and adults alike.  It is an amazing story about life, death and love, that will break your heart–in a good way.

Possible Objections:

  • A mild sexual scene
  • A bit of strong language

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Heaven is for Real – Movie 2014

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I watched Heaven Is for Real, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  It’s the story of Colton Burpo’s visit to heaven while he was on the operating table for a ruptured appendix.  This young boy was not expected to survive because toxins had been pumping into his body for five days, but he miraculously pulled through.

The movie adaptation diverged from the book in a few places.  The beginning symptoms of Colton’s illness and subsequent doctor visit are simplified so that you don’t get the same sense of seriousness that you do in the book.  I thought that part should have been truer to the book.

Also, the way that Todd’s church and the community were unsupportive was fabricated for the movie.  There were also a couple of antagonists thrown in–Nancy and the psychologist.  I suppose these elements were added so that there would be some additional obstacles and challenges to overcome.  They did add some drama to the story which wasn’t present in the original.

I also have a nitpick about how Todd’s wife dressed.  I’ve known several pastor’s wives, and her clothing was entirely too revealing to fit her character.  I guarantee you that pastor’s wives in the Midwest do not dress like that.

Overall, I thought the movie was okay, but it’s not one that I’ll ever need to watch again.  It seems like it was constructed in such a way as to take the viewer on an emotional roller coaster, and that’s exactly what it did for me.

Rated: PG

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

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While picking up some books at the library the other day, I spotted Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sitting on the counter with the new items.  I’m a big Harry Potter fan and have seen this book all over the place, but had never purposely sought it out.  How could I pass it over when it was sitting right there in front of me?  I couldn’t.

The first thing you should know is that this book is written in play format.  You have to pay careful attention to who is speaking, and the story line moves more quickly with fewer extraneous details than in the novels.  If you’re looking for a book that exactly matches the previous Harry Potter novels, you will be disappointed.  This is something completely different.

This story is set nineteen years in the future from where we left off with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the crew.  Harry and Ginny are now married, with kids.  Ron and Hermione are also married, with a child.  Even Draco has married and had a son.

It picks up with their children entering into their Hogwarts education and follows them through to their mid-teen years.  Albus (Harry’s son) and Scorpius (Draco’s son) have a hard time fitting in and become good friends.  However, Harry is distrustful of Scorpius and tries to thwart their friendship.  This is on top of Harry’s already strained relationship with Albus.  In an ill-advised plan, Albus tries to right a wrong from Harry’s past, while simultaneously trying to win his father’s approval.  Things go haywire and the whole cast has to come together to set things right before evil is again let loose on the wizarding world.  I could give you more details, but I don’t want to wreck the story for you.  😉

I enjoyed seeing the old characters in new adult roles.  They all show some imperfect tendencies and prejudices, and uncertainty in their new role as parents.  I like that this book takes a much deeper look at human nature than you generally get in the older Harry Potter novels.  This is a grown up world now, where adults make mistakes and people are more complex.  There is less of a line drawn between good and evil, and more emphasis on common priorities in life and how they can draw people together.

If you were a Harry Potter fan in your youth, you will appreciate the grown up complexity of this book.  You get to see your favorite characters again, but in the challenging world of adulthood.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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