Book Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren.

Summary:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky. – Taken from GoodReads.

My Thoughts:

This was a cute romance with a little bit of steaminess. I was a bit hesitant to pick i t up because my first read from Christina Lauren, The Soulmate Equation, was a meh experience for me. But I am glad that I didn’t let it deter me me. I loved this enemies-to-lovers story, and I also loved how the source of conflict between the main characters’ was not as a result of miscommunication, but rather something different. I won’t say what it is, but if you know, you know.

This was a great, and it definitely reignited my desire to read some of their other works. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Disney’s Land by Richard Snow

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Disney’s Land by Richard Snow.

Summary:

A propulsive history chronicling the conception and creation of Disneyland, the masterpiece California theme park, as told like never before by popular historian Richard Snow.

One day in the early 1950s, Walt Disney stood looking over 240 acres of farmland in Anaheim, California, and imagined building a park where people “could live among Mickey Mouse and Snow White in a world still powered by steam and fire for a day or a week or (if the visitor is slightly mad) forever.” Despite his wealth and fame, exactly no one wanted Disney to build such a park. Not his brother Roy, who ran the company’s finances; not the bankers; and not his wife, Lillian. Amusement parks at that time, such as Coney Island, were a generally despised business, sagging and sordid remnants of bygone days. Disney was told that he would only be heading toward financial ruin.

But Walt persevered, initially financing the park against his own life insurance policy and later with sponsorship from ABC and the sale of thousands and thousands of Davy Crockett coonskin caps. Disney assembled a talented team of engineers, architects, artists, animators, landscapers, and even a retired admiral to transform his ideas into a soaring yet soothing wonderland of a park. The catch was that they had only a year and a day in which to build it.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates…and the first day was a disaster. Disney was nearly suicidal with grief that he had failed on a grand scale. But the curious masses kept coming, and the rest is entertainment history. Eight hundred million visitors have flocked to the park since then. In Disney’s Land, Richard Snow brilliantly presents the entire spectacular story, a wild ride from vision to realization, and an epic of innovation and error that reflects the uniqueness of the man determined to build “the happiest place on earth” with a watchmaker’s precision, an artist’s conviction, and the desperate, high-hearted recklessness of a riverboat gambler.

My Thoughts:

It took me a while to get through Disney’s Land due to a bunch of other reading commitments I had in the latter bit of the year. I really liked this thorough look at the making of Disneyland, including what led Walt Disney to decide to build the park.

While this is very much written by someone who loves Disneyland, the author does not shy away from showing some of the not-so-great things that happened behind the scenes, as well as the person of Walt Disney himself. However, he does it in such a way that makes Disney more human, and also makes readers admire him and his work even more. My only complain is that it did get a little bit dry at times, but I still highly recommend it. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia #1)

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.

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I decided in December 2020 that this year would be the year that I finally reread the Chronicles of Narnia. The last time I had read the whole series was back when I was a senior in high school – in 2012 – and I am glad to finally return to the land of Narnia.

The Magician’s Nephew is the first book in the series (although it was the sixth book published). We are introduced to Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, two children who meet and become friends. One day, while trying to explore an empty house, they come upon Digory’s uncle’s study. In the study, his uncle gives the two children rings and the adventure begins there. First, they are transported to an in-between land. Secondly, they travel to another world that is dying and due to a foolish move on Digory’s part, they meet Jadis, the ruler of that world, as well as the one responsible for it’s destruction. After a quick jaunt to London, they try to return Jadis back to her own world, but instead end up in a world that is just being born – Narnia, where they also meet the ruler, Aslan.

Rereading The Magician’s Nephew always shows me more things that I missed the previous time around, especially as Christian. While the book as a whole serves as an allegory of the Creation account in Genesis 1-3, I found myself noticing more specific allegorical elements. For instance, how evil is brought into Narnia in the form of Jadis, and how she was brought in by Digory. There is also a scene in the garden where she tries to deceive Digory into breaking his word to Aslan by telling him to steal one of the apples and take it home to his mother, who is ill. A Lot of what she says in this scene reminded me of what the serpent says to Eve in Genesis 3, and how he twisted God’s words to her. There are so many elements that could be discussed at length, but whole books have been written on this topic!

I also loved the references to things that appear in the other books in series. Some examples include how Digory grows up and becomes the Professor that the Penvensies goa nd stay with in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We also get a description as to how a lamppost ended up in Narnia. We are also introduced to Jadis, who eventually becomes the White Witch. There are so many easter eggs in this book and its fascinating to read and discover them.

In the last chapter there is a passage where Aslan warns Digory that our world could eventually become like Charn, Jadis’ former world, especially if we discover a magic or weapon equivalent to the Deplorable Word that she used to destroy Charn. Part of me wonders if this was C.S. Lewis’ way of critiquing the discovery of nuclear weapons and the Cold War, or if he was referring to something else. I’m just speculating, but it would also make sense.

Overall, I enjoyed my reread of The Magician’s Nephew. It’s not as powerful as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it is still a fantastic read. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab.

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Travel to the world of Verity, which used to look pretty similar to our world until the monsters appeared. After years of violence, the capital – V-city – finally came to a truce and was divided into North and South City. One half ruled by Henry Flynn who wants to protect the citizens at whatever cost, as well as three monsters under his care. The other half is ruled by the ruthless Callum Harker who lets the monsters run free and forces people to pay him for protection and the truce between the two cities is close to its breaking point. All Kate Harker wants is to be a family with her father, who keeps sending her to boarding schools, and when she gets kicked out yet again she finally sees it as her chance to live with him. When news gets out that Harker’s daughter is back, Henry Flynn sends his adopted monster son, August, to attend the same school as her to try and keep an eye on the Harkers. But when a planned attack on Kate fails, both her and August find themselves on the run from the sinister minds behind it.

This Savage Song is an interesting novel that deals with hypocrisy, violence and darkness. Essentially the monsters were birthed from the violent acts that the humans committed – in a sense, birthed from the monster within humans.

The novel deals with hypocrisy because Kate’s father puts forth the facade that he is doing what he thinks is best for North City. However, he proves to be more monstrous than some of the monsters that are out there. This is proven when Kate discovers that he was behind the assassination attempt on her, as well as the death of his mother. She confronts him and says, “‘You’re not a father. You’re not even a man. You’re a monster'” (410). This shakes Kate up because all she ever wanted to do was make her father proud, but all of that melts away when she realizes what a monster he truly is, when she does, August tries to help stop her from becoming like her father, and from being the perfect meal for him – he feeds off the souls of sinners.

It was also interesting how music played a big part in the novel and how it is used as a weapon by the Sunai monsters – this is the type of monster that August is. However, there were also some aspects of this world that were left unexplained, such as the origin of all the monsters. It is briefly explained, but it is quickly glossed over and the novel could have done with more exposition on this.

However, the discussion that not all monsters are truly monsters was interesting. For example, August wishes he could be human and live life like a human, he does not want to be a monster and he does not want to give into his dark side. Contrast this to Kate’s father who is truly a monster in all of his actions – having his wife killed, trying to have his daughter killed, starting a war – while claiming to be someone who cares about man kin. This also brings up the question of what makes us human and whether someone like August can even have a shred of humanity without being human.

Overall, this was just an okay read and I am probably not going to finish the rest of duology. However, I am interesting in trying some of the author’s other works, especially those written under V. E. Schwab. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

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The Bear and the Nightingale is a fantasy novel set in medieval Russia. It is set the northern Rus’ and follows Vasilisa, who is a mysterious girl who is born to her mother and her mother dies. Her father then decides to remarry, but his new wife is a devout Chrisitan who seeks to rid the house of demons and, along with the village’s new priest, force the town to turn their backs on the spirits that they have previously believed in to help with the day-to-day of their lives. Once the villagers stop leaving offerings for spirits, calamity continually strikes the village. However, Vasilisa, also known as Vasya, can see the spirits and does what she can to help them while protecting her family. But there is also a foreboding for the coming winter and whether or not there will be a lot of casualties, and Vasya starts to wonder if the frostking that she has heard tales of, actually exists, and there is another ominuous evil that starts stalking the village.

This is a slower read, but only because it is my first foray into adult fantasy – besides The Lord of the Rings. And even though it is a slower read, it is a fascinating story, but I found myself having to take short breaks after every few pages to kind of review what had happened so far and soak in what was going on. It is a very atmospheric read and I found myself captivated by it all.

I enjoyed learning about the different “spirits” that appear in this book, especially since I feel like I have learned a little bit more about medieval Russian folklore. There is also so much that happens in this book and it is hard to summarize properly because there are several different threads going on that then culminate in the climax of the novel.

It was a fascianting look at “pagan” culture vs. Eastern Orthodox Christianity, as well as how pride does really come before the fall in the case of Father Konstantin who serves as a catalyst for the events that lead to the climax. There is also some political intrigue woven throughout the book, mainly involving Anna – Vasya’s stepmother – and Father Konstantin and the reasons that both of them are sent to Vasya’s village.

Father Konstantin reminded me a lot of Frollo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Disney version, I have yet to read the book), and a lot of what he does, especially towards the end proves this. Also, the following quotes that Vasya says to him when he is trying to do the last rites over someone, also shows that he is legalistic and that he has a false piety that uses to gain power over the villagers.

‘”You want my people to love you, so you made them afraid.” Vasya was pale with fury. “I will not have Dunya afraid. Get out.” (209).

The above quotes also shows another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed. I enjoyed watching Vasya grow up and learn to think for herself, instead of just allowing the fear that Father Konstantin instills in the other villagers take over her too. She still takes care of the spirits that take care of her family, especially since she sees how they are hurting because the villagers are ignoring them. She also sees the calamity that is brought to the village because of their neglect of the spirits.

I also appreciate how it is explained that Vasya can see the spirits – she has the gift of second sight because she has magic in her blood. This makes me even more curious about her step mother, Anna, and how and why she seems to have the same gift. It was also interesting that readers get to learn along with Vasya that the frostking is not a mere fairy tale and that he actually exists.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale, and there is so much that happens and it ends on a cliffhanger and I can’t wait to read the next book. This is a great wintry and atmospheric historical fantasy and I highly recommend it! 5/5 Stars

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Zodiac by Romina Russell.

I don’t know where to start with this review, because overall Zodiac was a disappointing read, but before I jump into my thoughts on the book let me give a quick synopsis of the book.

Zodiac is set in another universe/galaxy years in the future. This whole society is based around the 12 signs of the Zodiac and each sign has it’s own “house” that governs over several planets. Rhoma Grace is a sixteen-year-old from the House of Cancer who is just trying to get past her acolyte training and go on to university. However, on the night of a festival, things go very wrong when one of the four moons that make up part of House Cancer’s system is decimated which causes havoc on the other moons, as well as the main Cancerian planet. Rho and several of her friends are the only ones left alive on the moon that their school is on, and they are taken to safety. They soon learn that their guardian was killed by the event and Rho is next in line to succeed her. Rho takes over as the guardian of House Cancer, but when she gets threats from Ophiucus, a villainous being who was believed to just be a myth, she sets out to find him, as well as warn the rest of the Zodiac of his destruction, even though very few people believe her. But soon other houses are attacked by mysterious and suspicious incidents that make some of the other houses realize that there might be some truth to Rho’s claims.

As I mentioned before, Zodiac was a disappointing read. It had it’s good elements, but for the most part it just seemed to drag in a lot of places. It took me over a week to get through it because very little about this story compelled me, the only reason I didn’t DNF it was that I had gotten far enough along in the book that I wanted to see how things ended. However, in some ways I do wish I had just DNF’d it.

One of the main things I didn’t like about Zodiac is that the word-building was a little lackluster even though it was an intricate world that needed a lot of explaining. There were times when I was confused about was going on and even confused various elements within this universe. Some of the concepts that Romina Russell created were fascinating, but there needed to be more details given to the readers.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the characters. Rho was pretty one-dimensional and I also didn’t like that a love triangle was introduced in this book. While Rho’s determination is admirable, there are times when it felt like she let her leadership get to her head and she refused to listen to other…granted some of the others did also look down on her because of her age.

One of the few characters I actually liked was Hysan. While he supported Rho on her quest and believed that what she said was true, he also tries to caution her about putting to much of herself into the quest, especially since she is now the leader of the House of Cancer.

I really wanted to love this book, but it just wasn’t compelling enough, the plot and world-building was confusing and the characters weren’t always likable. There are three other books in the series and I honestly have no inclination to pick them up to find out what happens next – especially since some of the reviews for the second book have said that quality wise it’s not as good as the first book. 2.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Reading Journal: Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is more of a reading journal of sorts of my reread of Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley. I remember reading these when I was about 12 and enjoying them, but I was curious to see how they hold up now that I am 27. Since this is a reading journal there will be spoilers.

January 22nd, 2022

So far I am enjoying this a lot more than I thought I would. I mean, yes, I do find myself rolling my eyes a bit at how often Elsie cries, as well as her being uber pious and perfect. I don’t know anyone who has been as perfect, or who has been grieved over their own sin. I do really like Miss Allison, and Aunt Chloe (Mammy). I hate how awful her family is to her, at least her grand parents and aunts and uncles. But then again, it also seems it was part of the culture of the South, especially for plantation owners (?). There is a small part of me that thinks I should try and read all of the Elsie books, or at least as many of them as I find myself able to get through.

***

I forgot how much of a jerk her father is…I get that he doesn’t know how to take care of a child. But still. His best friend is able to relate to Elsie a lot more than he does. He doesn’t take the time to get to know her and he is way to stern with her when he has barely said two words to her. Also, I don’t know, but Mr. Travilla creeps me out a bit, but I think it has more to do with the fact that he ends up marrying Elsie in book 4. But again, it was a different time, and I don’t think his kindness to her as an 8 year old is him grooming her. Like I said, it was a different time where a huge age gap was the norm. But it still makes me a little uneasy. Also what 8 year old drinks coffee?

***

January 23rd, 2022

I did not expect to finish the first book so quickly, but I think it has more to do with the fact that I also had a hard time getting to sleep last night, and as a result ended up reading a bit. I kind of had a good time reading it too, which surprises me because I thought I would be mostly rage reading it. Yes, there are still quite a few things that I don’t like about this book (or the series overall), but something about it still made me invested in the story…maybe it’s the nostalgia for the time when I last read it. I don’t know how to explain it.

Elsie is very legalistic and way too perfect. And maybe that had to do with the times in which the book is set (the 1840s). Also, I just find it hard to believe that an 8/9 year old is that well-behaved. But yet I still found something charming about the story…I don’t know. Like I said, I think I just got caught up in the nostalgia.

I can’t stand her father, he is borderline abusive in how he treats her sometimes, and I feel like the author almost glorified that… or maybe it is a way to set up the next novel, where he becomes a Christian and it’s to show the contrast between how different love can look like. I don’t know, maybe I’m just grasping at straws. And then near the end Mr. Travilla makes a comment that was creepy… he tells Elsie that he wished she was ten years older *gag*.

Overall, I liked my reread of Elsie Dinsmore a lot more than I thought I would. However, it is not something I would necessarily recommend to others and I don’t know if I would ever let my own kids read these books. I hadn’t originally planned on it, but I’m curious to see how many of the books I can get through before I get so fed up with them. So I guess I’m going to pick up Elsie’s Holidays at Roselands next.

Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Muted by Tami Charles

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Muted by Tami Charles.

Summary:

A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of ambition, music, and innocence lost, perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds!
Be bold. Get seen. Be Heard.


For seventeen-year-old Denver, music is everything. Writing, performing, and her ultimate goal: escaping her very small, very white hometown.

So Denver is more than ready on the day she and her best friends Dali and Shak sing their way into the orbit of the biggest R&B star in the world, Sean “Mercury” Ellis. Merc gives them everything: parties, perks, wild nights — plus hours and hours in the recording studio. Even the painful sacrifices and the lies the girls have to tell are all worth it.

Until they’re not.

Denver begins to realize that she’s trapped in Merc’s world, struggling to hold on to her own voice. As the dream turns into a nightmare, she must make a choice: lose her big break, or get broken.

Inspired by true events, Muted is a fearless exploration of the dark side of the music industry, the business of exploitation, how a girl’s dreams can be used against her — and what it takes to fight back. 

My Thoughts:

Wow! This book was a ride. I was immediately drawn to it because it is a novel-in-verse, and I was curious to see how it addressed the darker side of the music industry. While this reads mostly as a contemporary, there are some thriller aspects to it.

I was hooked from the beginning and I was on the edge of my seat as Denver learns that not everything is as it seems when it comes to her idol, Merc. It was interesting to see how someone can be swayed by deception, and I think it is a cautionary tale about being careful of who you trust, even if it seems like nothing is wrong. It is also a pciture of how sick individuals can use the dreams and ambitions of others for their sick and twisted ways. The ending still haunts me! 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Summary:

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last—inexorably—into evil. (Taken from Goodreads).

My Thoughts:

I had seen several of the Booktubers I follow gush about The Secret History. I’d also been hearing the term Dark Academia thrown around on YouTube, and I have been curious to learn if it is something that I liked. It was also recommended as a read-a-like for the movie The Dead Poets’ Society, which is one of my favorite movies. And it just sounded really interesting.

I liked The Secret history and I do think it might be a book that I revisit in the future to get all the nuances. However, it did take a different direction than I was expecting. I thought Julian (the professor) would be involved lot more than he actually was, and in some ways we only get second-hand information of how he has influenced his students. I do wish we had gotten more of a character study of him, but I do think the author does do a great job of his character development, or rather lack thereof, and his hypocrisy.

I found all of the characters unlikable, which I get is the point, but there wasn’t really anyone I could root for. However, it was interesting to see who the dynamic shifted among the group after the murder. It’s also interesting how the author describes the victim, Bunny, in such a way that his murder almost seems justified. And I suppose that is the point since we are being told the story from the perspective of on of the other members of the groups, Richard. It was also interesting to see how each of the characters were affected by their actions.

Overall, I liked The Secret History. it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I do plan on revisiting it in a few years and I can understand why it is a well-loved book. 3.75/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you might know that back in 2018 I read a book that became one of my favorite non-fiction books of all-time. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I reread it in 2020, and I probably loved it even more the second time around. That book was Radium Girls by Kate Moore. So when I heard that she was coming out with a new non-fiction book last year, I knew I had to read it. I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew that it would be good.

The Woman They Could Not Silence did not disappoint. Kate Moore does a great job of weaving the story of Elizabeth Packard as she not only fights for own freedom from an asylum, but for those of her fellow inmates who had also been placed in there unjustly. This book not only makes readers glad that the barbaric practices of insane asylums are a thing of the past, however it also brings to the surface the fact that women are still silenced in certain arenas, we are still seen as other. It is a reminder that we have come a long way as far as the treatment of women, but there is still a lot more work to be done.

As I mentioned before, The Woman They Could Not Silence follows Elizabeth Packard in 1861 when her minister husband places her in an insane asylum because she was outspoken about her views on politics and religion, and because she was not the model subservient wife that was considered the societal norm at the time. She also discovers that there are no laws to protect women, especially married women, from being unjustly treated. While trying to prove that she is of sound mind, she also discovers that there are others just like her, women who were declared insane for outrageous reasons. She tries to win favor with the superintendent, who at first seems to be sympathetic to her plight, but soon makes known he too wants to silence her.

After witnessing and experiencing horrible things, Elizabeth realizes that she not only needs to fight for her own freedom, but for the freedom of others who have found themselves in similar situations. She would become a prolific writer, as well as spend the rest of her life trying to bring reform not only to how individuals were committed to asylums, but also for the rights of women. She was truly a remarkable woman, who I had never heard of before.

Kate Moore does a great job of making this read like a novel, however not shying away from the horrors that took place inside insane asylums. There were times I felt sick and angry over what people would have experienced. I also found myself incensed over what was considered to make a woman insane during that time. Let me just say, I am so grateful I am married to someone who appreciates hearing my opinions and engages me in discussions. I am also glad that for the most part women are free to express themselves. However, it also reminded me of the areas where women are still left unheard, or their concerns are brushed aside. Like I said before, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done as far as women being heard.

Overall, I loved The Woman They Could Not Silence. It is a lengthy book and I read it in the span of two days. I could barely put it down, although I also find myself having to do so at times because of how angry parts of it made me. I highly recommend this book for fans of Kate Moore’s work, and for everyone. A lot more people need to know about Elizabeth Packard and the work she did in regards to reformed practices regarding admittance of patients to asylums, as well as women’s rights! 5/5 Stars.

March Wrap-up and April TBR

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my March Wrap-up and April TBR. I’ll be honest, I did not expect to read as much as I did – 22 books! That is wild, especially since some of them were thick. However, there were a few novellas thrown in there too. However, I do have a feeling that I won’t be reading as much this month because I am starting a new job, which will take up a good chunk of my time. As in previous posts, I will be sharing my April TBR at the end. Here are the books I read this month:

Pure by Linda Kay Klein

5/5 Stars

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

3/5 Stars.

Broken Resolutions by Olivia Dade

3/5 Stars.

On the Plus Side by Tabatha Vargo

3/5 Stars.

Never the Bride by Flora Ferrari

3/5 Stars.

Marshmallow by Megan Wade

3/5 Stars.

Swipe for a Cosmo by Megan Wade

3/5 Stars.

Mixer Upper by Penn Rivers and Desiree LaFawn

3/5 Stars.

Your Good Body by Jennifer Taylor Wagner

5/5 Stars

Cold Brew Corpse by Tara Lush

3.5/5 Stars.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

4/5 Stars/

Miss Hollywood by Kitty Gallant

3.5/5 Stars

Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

4/5 Stars.

Apple Children of Aeon, Volume 1 by Ai Tanaka

4/5 Stars.

Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

3/5 Stars.

The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr

4.5/5 Stars.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – DNF’d

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

5/5 Stars.

Desire and the Deep Blue Sea by Olivia Dade

3.5/5 Stars.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

3.5/5 Stars.

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

3.5/5 Stars.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

April TBR

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

Ever since I read the author’s debut novel, Salt Houses, last year, I have been dying to read more of her work. I’m looking forward to picking up another intergenerational novel set in Lebanon and Syria. I know this is going to hit me hard, but it will also make me more empathetic to the experiences to those who have been forced to leave war-torn countries.

Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

I have started this one already, and I like it so far. I love learning more about Indian culture and family dynamics, and I love the elements from Pride and Prejudice that author uses throughout the novel.

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

I have been meaning to pick this one up for a while, but for whatever reason I just never had. It sounds like a cute romance about a couple that meet under somewhat unusual circumstances and I am looking forward to seeing how they get to know each other.

This is just a small sample of the books I want to read this month. I am hoping to finish both the Davaebad trilogy and the Serpent and Dove trilogy. I also have some other books I want to read, I think I might do a buddy read of A Man Called Ove, or that might be on hold for a few months. Plus, I am planning on going back to the library, so anything I happen to check out from there.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

The Animal Crossing Book Tag

Hello everyone,

Today I want to do something a little bit different than my usual posts. Over a month ago, I saw Riddhi @Whispering Stories ‘s post where she did The Animal Crossing Book Tag, and I knew I had to do it too. I love Animal Crossing: New Horizons, although my poor island has been neglected for a few weeks and I really need to get back into it. This tag was created by Bookish Things and Tea.

Let’s jump into the tag!

Image from Stickpng

Gamecube – A classic that you want to read

Right now, there are two classics I want to read. I really want to read Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell because it has been on my TBR for a very long time. I also want to read The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, but the length intimidates me, and I am a huge fan of the Disney adaptation and I know that this is a lot darker.

Wild World – Your favorite second book in a series.

This was a hard one because I feel like most of the time I find second books in the series lacking. However, I would have to pick Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery. I just love how we continue to see Anne growing up, as well as the rest of the Avonlea crew.

New leaf – The best new release you’ve read recently

If recently means so far this year, I would have to say The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith. I really enjoyed this first adult novel from Jennifer E. Smith, she tackles several different topics and I loved the backdrop of an Alaskan cruise. I highly recommend this for fans of her YA works. I am also planning on having a longer review up in a few weeks.

City Folk – Your favorite book set in a large city

This was a hard one because I usually don’t focus a whole lot on where the book is set, or rather how big the surroundings are, but if I had to pick one I would have to say The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, which is a thriller set in Paris. I really enjoyed it, and if you’d like to read more of my in-depth thoughts, check out my full-length review that I posted last year.

Isabelle – A book that has been with you through thick and thin

For this one I have two books, I couldn’t decide between either of them. Both are sort of comfort reads and I keep coming back to them every so often. They are Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I love both of them for different reasons, but yet each time I read them I enjoy them even more than the previous time.

Bells – A book rich with character

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. While told mainly in a series of vignettes set in a small town in Alabama, we also get to know several of the characters, and their lives through various trials. I fell in love with the characters and could barely put it down.

Pitfall – A book you wouldn’t mind never seeing again.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata. I should have DNF’d this, but I didn’t. I get that it was tackling some serious topics but it took a very bizarre and disturbing turn and I was definitely scarred for a few days after reading it.

Fossil – Your favorite history/historical fiction book.

I would definitely have to pick both Radium Girls and The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore. Both tackle different topics that are somewhat unknown to most people, and Kate Moore writes in such a way that it is hard to put down. I will say that both books have made me angry with various things that happened to the women that are explored, but in a good way. I can see why these books might not be for everyone, but I highly recommend them!

I am tagging anyone who would like to participate in this tag! Here are a few rules if you decide to do it:

  • Please link back to the original creator of the tag, Bookish Things and Tea.
  • Answer the following Animal Crossing themed book questions.
  • Feel free to use graphics, but be sure to credit Bookish Things and Tea.
  • Tag some friends to spread the love!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon.

Summary:

It’s easy to feel at home in Mitford. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are generally lovable.
Yet, Father Tim, the bachelor rector, wants something more. Enter a dog the size of a sofa who moves in and won’t go away. Add an attractive neighbor who begins wearing a path through the hedge. Now, stir in a lovable but unloved boy, a mystifying jewel theft, and a secret that’s sixty years old.
Suddenly, Father Tim gets more than he bargained for. And readers get a rich, provincial comedy in which mysteries and miracles abound.

My Thoughts:

*Note: this review starts out as more of a journal of my feelings while reading the book, and then launches into my overall thoughts.*

At Home in Mitford has been hard for me to get into. I thought I would take to it immediately, however, it does seem a bit too saccharine and wholesome for my tastes. That seems weird of me to say, but it’s true. Maybe it’s because we are following a community, but no one seems to have any problems, which I find it hard to believe. Things just seem to perfect. Right now I am still on the fence on whether or not I want to keep reading it. I might stick with it for now.

This is so unusual. I feel disengaged from the book and have very little desire to pick it up. However, I also don’t want to DNF it either. I think I am going to read a couple of chapters a day and read something else too.

I finished At Home in Mitford and it was okay. As I have already mentioned, I never felt fully invested in the story, but there was enough that kept my interest piqued. It just felt like not much happened, but I guess that is the point since it is a slice of life novel. However, things just seem to perfect in Mitford, even the problems that do arise are conveniently dealt with.

I did like getting to know the people of Mitford, my only complain is the dialect, it three me off. Even though I know it is supposed to be set in the South, I kept imagining British and Scottish accents.

I did like that through Father Tim’s example readers get to see the spiral of what can happen when one doesn’t take breaks to relax and running oneself ragged. I also liked getting to know Dooley, it was interesting to see his character growth, even though he is a child.

I felt like the writing style was interesting, it was told in vignettes. However, they did seem disjointed at times, especially during the first half of the novel.

Overall, At Home in Mitford was an okay read. There is a small part of me that wants to eventually pick up the next book to see what happens, but I am not in a big rush to do so. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Anne of Windy Willows by L. M. Montgomery

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Anne of Windy Willows by L. M. Montgomery.

Summary:

The fourth book in the Anne Shirley series.

Newly graduated from Redmond College, Anne is hired to be the principal of Summerside High School, which means being separated from Green Gables and also from her beloved boyfriend Gilbert, who is away at medical school. In her new job, she quickly discovers that the Pringle family rule the town of Summerside, and she was not the person they wanted to run their school. Can Anne, far from her friends and family, confront the Pringles and win the trust and love of the town? – Taken from GoodReads

My Thoughts:

I’ll be honest, this is not my favorite installment in the Anne series. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but it is definitely the weakest one in the series. One of the things I didn’t like about it is that we see very little of the gang from Avonlea that we have grown to know and love over the course of the first three novels. We also don’t have any scenes with Gilbert, yes he is mentioned, but there are no interactions with him where he is actually in a scene.

I also didn’t like how the novel kept switching between epistolary and narrative, and as a result flipflopping between 1sy person and 3rd person, it was jarring at times.

However, that being said, I did enjoy getting to know the various characters that Anne encounters in Sunnyside. But there were definitely a couple of them that I wish we saw a lot more of, like Pauline Gibson, who we get a couple of chapters about during Anne’s first year there, and then she isn’t mentioned again except in passing in the last chapter. I did love getting to know Little Elizabeth and Katherine Brook, but I extremely disliked Hazel.

Overall, while not the best installment in the series, Anne of Windy Willows is still an enjoyable treat for those who are fans of Anne Shirley. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Code Girls by Liza Mundy

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Code Girls by Liza Mundy.

Summary:

In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment. – Taken from GoodReads.

My Thoughts:

This was an interesting look at the forgotten women who helped crack the coeds that helped end World War II. I’d heard of the code breakers, but I didn’t realize just how many of them were women, as well as how some of the biggest codes that were cracked were done so by women who did not receive the credit they rightly deserved.

I’ll admit that this was a little bit dry at times, and it seemed to be repetitive. However, I do appreciate the care the author took to describe the different kinds of codes and how they were cracked, as well as the history of coding.

Overall, this was a fascinating read and I highly recommend it for those who are interested in World War II history, as well as the code breaking that took place in that era. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

2022 Library Haul, Vol. 1

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another library haul. I finally ended up signing up for a library card this week with one of my local libraries. I’d been meaning to for a while, but for whatever reason I hadn’t. However, I was at the library for a job interview and the time had come for me to get a library card (by the way, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that we moved to Texas in December), as well as check out a few books. I did restrain myself and only checked out 5 books. I think the odds are greatly in my favor that I will actually read all 5 of them before they are do back early next month. Here are the books I checked out:

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

As I am writing this, I have just finished Dear Fahrenheit 451. I loved it! I highly recommend it! I laughed so much and could relate to a lot of things that the author says as a librarian and a book lover. This is definitely going to be on my favorites list at the end of the year. I loved reading her different thoughts for each book, and it was just really good. Please read this one if you can get your hands on it!

The City of Brass by S. A Chakraborty

If you saw my 22 books to read in 2022, you know that this is one of those books. However, I have been intrigued by it for a couple of year, but I’m also intimidated because I don’t know if I’ll like it. However, I am intrigued to read a Middle Eastern inspired fantasy. I have already started it and so far I am hooked!

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

Lately I have been really getting into romance, and I have been wanting to read Waiting for Tom Hanks for a while. I was sold by the fact that it is about a woman who loves Sleepless in Seattle (which I still need to read, but I love You’ve Got Mail), and longs to find her own version of Tom Hanks. When she gets the opportunity to work on a movie set, she meets the star of the movie, who is the complete opposite of her ideal man, and well, I guess we kind of know what is going to happen between them.

The Odyssey of Star Wars by Jack Mitchell

First off, how did I not know this existed?! I was sold by the title alone, however I am even more intrigued by the fact that this is Rogue One and all the films of the original trilogy in the form of epic poetry. Yes, I know it’s kind of nerdy, but at the same time I am really looking forward to reading this (it is also a reminder that I still need to read the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars books by Ian Doescher). I also love the cover art. I discovered this purely by accident, I was browsing the new books section at the library, and I saw the title. That’s all I need to be convinced that I needed to check it out and bring it home with me.

The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Lately I have had an itch to get back into literary analysis and criticism (more so writing it), I did a lot of it in college as an English major, and by the time I graduated I was burnt out. I have a few ideas of things I want to do with this new found urge to analyze literature and movies, but I also want to read more books on literary analysis and criticism as well. The Dark Fantastic sounded really interesting because it looks at race in four popular book series and tv series, focusing more specifically on the portrayal of young black women in these fictional worlds. I looking forward to reading this and learning a lot more about what the author has to say about race and imagination.

And those are the 5 books I checked our from the library. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I feel optimistic that I will make it through all of them by the time they go back, but even if I don’t – thank goodness for renewals!

Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

First Line Fridays #83 – Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another installment of First Line Fridays hosted by Reading is My Superpower.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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“Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops, and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, the darkest secrets of pool and cascade, but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum, it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children, and that is she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.”

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

22 Books I Want To Read in 2022

Hello everyone,

Today I would like to share the 22 books that I am hoping to read in 2022. Since it is March, I have already read a few of these books, so I have a good feeling that I will make it through all of them by December 31st. A lot of these books are ones that I have been meaning to pick up for several years and for one reason or another I just haven’t, but 2022 is the year I am going to prioritize them!

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

I have been meaning to pick up the Lilac Girls for several years but just haven’t gotten the chance. This year I am determined to read it. I think it will be heartbreaking because it is set during World War II and it is following the lives of three very different women and their experiences during this tumultuous time in history.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I have heard nothing but great things about Station Eleven. I think the only reason that I’ve been reluctant to pick it up is that it is set during a pandemic, and since we are just coming out of one (I hope!) it just never felt like a good time to read it. However, I feel like I am in a good place to read it, and I’m looking forward to it.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

I’m a little embarrassed that it has taken me so long to pick this up. I’ve had it on my shelves since 2018, and it sounds right up my alley. Not only is it a Victorian mystery, but it follows the daughters of several notorious characters from Gothic literature, such as Dr. Jekyll, Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Moreau and others. Also, Sherlock Holmes and Watson also make an appearance. It sounds really good and I am looking forward to seeing how all these characters interact with one another.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about this book, except that it is set after the Civil War, and that a movie came out starring Tom Hanks. It sounds really good, and I think I’ll enjoy it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Welp, I think it’s about time that I finished reading the Harry Potter series. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to pick up the last book. I think it’s partly because I didn’t grow up with Harry Potter like a lot of my peers, so I’m not as crazed about it. I do want to finish it though, and I think this is the year to do so!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I had every intention of picking up The Starless Sea when it came out several years ago, but I never got to it. I’ll admit that I am a bit hesitant to pick it up because I read The Night Circus and wasn’t a huge fan of it. But I have also seen that some who weren’t into The Night Circus have really enjoyed The Starless Sea – I’m hoping I am one of those readers.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing is another book that I am wanting to pick up because of how beloved it is. Again, I know very little about it, except that it is set in the South in the ’60s and it is part mystery. I’m looking forward to seeing why everyone loves it, however, I’m also worried that it won’t live up to the hype.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police has been on my radar for a while. The concept of memories disappearing, and things just disappearing from existence sounds fascinating and I’m looking forward to seeing how the author pulls it off. Also, I enjoy reading novels in translation, I just find them fascinating because it is written from a different perspective than an American-centric one.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

The Poppy War is a martial fantasy based on China’s bloody history during the 20th century. I also know that it is gory and graphic and does not shy away from the horrors of war, but I’ve also heard nothing but good things about it and I am looking forward to picking it up.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

I’m intrigued to read about the town of Mitford, and it did come recommended for fans of Debbie Macomber’s books. Who knows, maybe this will become a new favorite series.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I’ve had The Queen of the Tearling sitting on my Kindle for a while, although I don’t even remember buying it. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, and I know my friend Allison really enjoyed it. I know it’s a fantasy, but I’ve honestly forgotten the synopsis.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent & Dove was a book that I heard a lot about on BookTube when it first came out, and it definitely got mixed reviews. However, after hearing Grace from G-Swizzle talk about it and how she found it to be a book that helped her work through deconstruction of some of her beliefs, my interest was piqued. As someone who is working through her own questions and concerns about certain aspects of my beliefs, I’m curious to see how that affects my enjoyment of the book. I’m personally expecting to love it, but who knows!

The City of Brass by S. A. Chabkraborty

This is the first book in a Middle Eastern based fantasy series involving djinn, and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews to the point I want to give it a go. However, I am nervous because I’ve only just recently started dipping my toes into adult fantasy.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

I really need to read Cranford. I have had this on my shelves for almost 7 years! I remember that because I picked it up when I went to The Last Bookstore in L.A. for the first time. I’d meant to read it in preparation for reading my senior thesis, however I ended up writing it on the author’s other work, North & South. I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing whether I enjoy it more or less than North & South.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

I read Convenience Store Woman three years ago, and I enjoyed the quirkiness of it. Earthlings is Sayaka Murata’s latest novel (at least the latest that has been translated into English), it sounds a little weird, but it will probably be enjoyable. (*Spoiler alert: I read it in February and did not enjoy it. It was a pretty disturbing read.).

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo is a cozy mystery that centers around food, and I am looking forward to reading it. I’m also intrigued to see how the murder is solved.

The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

I loved the author’s previous work, Radium Girls, and before I even knew what this one was about, I knew I had to read it. I am looking forward to reading more about the state of asylums, and even how woman who did not fit into the conventions of society were treated.

The Cape Doctor by E. J. Levy

I’ll be honest, I was first intrigued by this book simply because of the title, and that fact that it is set in Cape Town, South Africa, when it was the Cape Colony. It is follows a young woman who longs to be a doctor, but the only way she can do so is by dressing as a man.

The Doctors Blackwell by Janice P. Nimura

I am excited to read about two of the first female doctors in U.S. and the various obstacles they had to face in the field of medicine. As well as other ways they pioneered the world of medicine. I also like that it seems, based on the synopsis, like the author does not shy away from some of the seemingly problematic beliefs that these two women had.

The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt

I am a Disney fanatic, and when I saw that this book was coming out I knew I had to read it. Not only is about Disney animation, but it is about the women who worked on some of the early movies that Disney released. I’m excited because I feel like for a long time the women who worked on these films have been overshadowed by the men, and I am glad that their story is finally being told.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

This sounds like an amazing book featuring magical realism, as well as exploring family dynamics and life in a small town. I don’t want to know to much else about the book, because I do want to just go in and be surprised.

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

After reading Salt Houses last year, Hala Alyan has become a new favorite author of mine and I want to read everything she puts out. I believe that this is her sophomore novel and it follows several generations of a family where the patriarchs are from war-torn Syria and Lebanon. I expect this to pack a punch and be a hard read at times, but I am still excited to pick it up soon.

And those are the 22 books I will be prioritising this year. Stay tuned to see if I actually make it through this whole list, I think I can do!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell

I had very low expectations going into Once Upon a Dream. Don’t get my wrong, I love Disney and I am intrigued by the Twisted Tales series, however several years ago I read one of the other installments in the series (As Old As Time), and I didn’t enjoy it. Also, Once Upon a Dream does not have the best ratings on Goodreads, which in my mind means that this is not going to be a good read. However, I loved it! I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did! I can understand while others did not enjoy this, but I don’t know, I found this an intriguing take on Sleeping Beauty, and I felt like Liz Braswell did a great job at fleshing out the characters.

Once Upon a Dream takes Sleeping Beauty and gives it the twist of what would happen if Aurora was not awaken by true love’s kiss. And honestly, I feel like Liz Braswell did a good job at executing this twist. My only complaint is that I feel like the blurb/synopsis gave away way to much of the story. While it was nice going in knowing what trajectory the novel was going to take, I would have loved to have discovered the twist that the majority of the novel is taking place in a dream that Aurora is having during her cursed sleep, which she herself only realizes about halfway through the book.

Even though I already knew from the synopsis that we were in a dreamscape, I’ll be honest the description we are given for the first 100 pages or so really had me. I really believed, like Aurora, that her parents had truly been wicked and Maleficent had stepped in to save the kingdom. And it seemed to be real, which I guess is the point. And I loved that the author was able to do that, to get me to believe that the world we start out in is the “reality” when it ended up being a dreamscape. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me, but I thought it was a very interesting technique.

I also loved how Aurora’s character is fleshed out and how she acts like an actual teenager (which I know was one of the complaints of others). I liked how we see her struggle with whether she has every truly been loved and how she feels abandoned by her parents, and that even the three fairies, her aunts, lied to her about who she truly was. I also like how she questions Philip as to how he can love her when he has only really seen one side of her character, meanwhile there is so much more to her than the parts he has seen. I also appreciated how we see Philip struggle with his role as the prince, and how he struggles with feeling inadequate to one day rule a kingdom.

And then there is Maleficent. She was a great villain, however I wish she was more fleshed out. I still don’t quite get how she was dead but not really dead. Maybe I’m just dumb, but that part did confuse me a lot. I liked how in the dreamscape at first she comes across as somewhat loving, similar to Angelina Jolie’s portrayal in the Maleficent movies. However, we soon discover, along with Aurora that she isn’t kind and she doesn’t truly care for Aurora, but she has a nefarious plan behind why she is doing what she is doing.

I think my only complaint about the book, besides the fact that the synopsis gives quite a bit of the plot away, is that the ending was kind of rushed. I wanted to see more of Aurora coming into her own, especially in her new role as a royal. But maybe that was the author’s intent, to give us a brief glance of what she is like, and leave it up to readers to imagine where her story goes from there.

Overall, I really enjoyed Once Upon a Dream. It took the classic tale, as well as the beloved movie, and turned it on it’s head. Liz Braswell did a great job of fleshing out the characters, especially since they don’t have much character in the original film. This has definitely reignited my interest in reading the rest of the Twisted Tales books and finding out how other beloved Disney films are twisted and the end result. 4/5 Stars.

Book Review: Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle.

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Soaring Earth is the companion memoir to Enchanted Air, and we are following the author through her teen years. She longs to go back to the Cuba she remembers, although it may never be the same again. It also deals with her disdain for the Vietnam War, especially since she hasn’t seen anything good come out of violence.

She has a section about attending Berkley and the dorm not being safe, there are also constant protests, some for equality. She also meets other students who idolize Che Guevara, yet she knows of the cruel acts he did, even to his own revolutionaries, some of them being her family members. It seems like she is commenting on how we as people have a tendency to idolize someone, even when we don’t know their full story and we are not willing to hear anything bad be said about our heroes, even if they have a dubious past.

It was interesting how the author was ostracized by others because she was Cuban-American, and they viewed it as a threat against their ideals. It was heartbreaking to see her get taken advantage of by some of the people she befriends, especially during her year(s) of drifting after she drops out of Berkley.

Even though we follow her as she is lost, the memoir ends on a hopeful note with her discovering her love for science, especially when it comes to agriculture and botany. She also discovers her love for poetry which she had previously abandoned. It is interesting to see her come into her own as a person, even though it takes a while. I loved how it ended with her meeting her husband and how she found hope in their love story.

This memoir touches on several historical events from the ’60s and ’70s, such as the Vietnam War, the anti-war and anti-establishment protests, the farm worker protests led by Cesar Cahvez and even the Charles Manson trials.

I really enjoyed this companion memoir and I loved that it is told in verse. Margarita Engle is definitely fast becoming one of my favorite authors and I can’t to read from her backlist of titles. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

February Wrap-Up and March TBR

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my February Wrap-up and March TBR. February was an interesting reading month, mainly in that I did not expect to read as much as I did, especially since it is a shorter month. I’ve also read some really good books, and a book that I wish I had never read or had DNF’d because it was pretty disturbing. I’m going to start by going through the books I read in February, however, I won’t be saying much about them because I plan on having longer reviews for each of them. Here are the 20 books that I read in February:

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

4/5 Stars.

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

3/5 Stars.

The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

4.5/5 Stars.

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

3/5 Stars.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery

4/5 Stars.

A Promise to Believe In by Tracie Peterson

3/5 Stars.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

3.75/5 Stars.

Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell

4/5 Stars.

The White Coat Diaries by Madi Sinha

4/5 Stars.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

3.75/5 Stars.

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

3.75/5 Stars.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

2/5 Stars.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

4/5 Stars.

All the Feels by Olivia Dade

3.5/5 Stars.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

5/5 Stars.

The Apothecary Diaries, Volume 1 by Natsu Hyuuga

4/5 Stars.

Love is Never Enough by Aaron T. Beck

4/5 Stars.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

4/5 Stars.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

3/5 Stars.

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

3/5 Stars.

MARCH TBR

Last month I had a hard time sticking to my TBR, so instead of this being a set list of books I am going to read this month, these are a few books I am hoping to get to in March, depending on if I am in the mood to read them.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This is a modern retelling of the Taming of the Shrew, and I am here for it. The synopsis makes it sound like it is a good one. And I’m looking forward to seeing how Anne Tyler adapts this play into a modern setting.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Ever since I read Guards! Guards! last year, I have been meaning to read more of the Discworld series. But there are also a lot of other books I want to get to as well. But last month I found a copy of the first installment at Half Price Books and decided to snatch it up. I’m looking forward to being immersed in this absurd but fun world again.

Desire and the Deep Blue Sea by Olivia Dade

Last month I read two of Olivia Dade’s latest releases and loved both of them. I am looking forward to picking up one of her backlist titles which I fully expect to be steamy.

These are only a few of the books I want to get to, I also plan on continuing my reread of the Anne of Green Gables series, The Little House series, and the Throne of Glass series. I also want to get to The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith, which is the book I chose from Book of the Month for March. Not to mention that I have also gone kind of hog wild in checking out books from the library through Libby so I have a ton of options to choose from.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Young Elites by Marie Lu.

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Adelina Amouteru is a malfetto, a survivor of the blood fever that ravaged her nation and bears the scars. One night she runs away from home after finding out that her cruel father is sending her away to be the mistress of wealthy gentleman. However, when she cornered, she discovers that she has abilities linked to illusion that she didn’t know she had, and now she faces execution for the death of her father. But she is soon rescued by Enzo, a Young Elite and the leader of The Dagger Society – a society of Young Elites who are trying to help Enzo regain is rightfully place on the throne. However, they are also be hunted down by Teren Santoro who leads an army whose main duty is to hunt down any Young Elites, who are considered to be abominations by society, and he is especially interested in hunting down Adelina’s whereabouts. Adelina soon finds herself caught up in a world of political intrigue, as well as violence and darkness as she starts to come into her powers, which are unlink anything the rest of the Dagger Society have seen before.

The Young Elites has several themes, one of the most prevalent ones being that of sisterhood. Even though Adelina and Violetta – her sister – grew up keeping each other at arm’s length, that does not stop Delina from doing what she can to save her form the wicked Teren, even if it means betraying her new friends. We also see on Violetta’s part that she had been using her own power to suppress Adelina’s power so that their father would not discover it and try to exploit or kill her.

Another them based on a statement that Adelina repeats in her mind is that of kindness with strings attached. For all of her life she has either been mistreated by her father, or, when he does show her kindness, it is to try and get her power to manifest. The same thing happens with Enzo and Raffaelle, especially since Rafaelle tells Enzo to kill her because she does not know ow to control her power. However, they use her because they believe that she can be useful to their plans. The only person who shows her kindness with no strings attached is her sister.

There is also a minor theme of hypocrisy woven through the story. It turns out that Trene himself is a malfetto and a Young Elite, however he has dedicated himself to seeing them destroyed because he views them as demonic and he views killing them as appeasing the gods.

There is also a fight between good and evil, light and darkness, particularly within Adelina. She has the power to conjure up illusions and make people experience pain, which appears to be rooted in darkness and seems to try to take control of her and push her to destruction, however her compassionate and good side seem to prevent her from doing so. However, there are certain emotions that seem to make her more volatile to the darkness inside of her . It will be interesting to see how this continues to play out in the rest of the trilogy since she has been abandoned by her friends, her love has been killed and she can only rely on her sister to help her from giving herself over to the darkness. In a sense, it is almost like her humanness isf ighting against the inhumanness of her power.

Overall though, I found this to be a pretty generic YA fantasy, however, that being said, I do think it is a good book for someone who is fairly new to YA fantasy. And while I did like the book, I am still on the fence on whether I want to continue with the rest of the trilogy or not. 3.5/ 5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Movie Review: Ready Player One (2018)

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on the movie Ready Player One.

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Ready Player One is set in Columbus, Ohio in the year 2045, where the world is a horrible place to live, but many escape to the OASIS, a virtual reality unvierse created James Halliday and Ogden Morrow. Several years prior, James Halliday died and as part of his legacy he left an easter egg hunt in OASIS. Players need to collect three keys to unlock the door to a golden egg, whoever finds it becomes the inheritor of Halliday’s estate. Wade Watts is one of the players who has made it his mission to be the first to the egg, along with his online friend Aech, and the mysterious Art3mis. However, they will have to go up against the sixers, egg hunters for the sinister Nolan Sorrento who wishes to turn the OASIS into a hellish landscape of commercials, as well as exploit the users of the OASIS, the very thing Halliday despised – and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Ready Player One is based on the book by Ernest Cline (who was also one of the screen writers) and Spielberg did a great job adapting it. Even though there are some differences from the book, the changes that were made made sense in order to ensure that the movie wasn’t any longer than it already is. The most glaring differences are the different challenges for the keys and the golden egg, but what they are changed to fits with the flow of the movie, and even makes it more action-packed. Also it makes sense that they did this since there were probably licensing issues with all the cultural references in the book, especially since one of the challenges was to reenact Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by the players acting as Ferris.

The choice of actors was really well done, especially the casting of Nolan Sorrento, as soon as Ben Medelsohn comes on scree his whole demeanor screams corporate overlord and it’s great! However, there have been complaints that this movie is very heavy on CGI,but that is kind of how it is supposed to be since most of the movie takes place in the OASIS which is a Virtual Reality, and it is going to be more “animated” than the real world.

A theme that is woven throughout the movie is that life cannot be lived in a virtual reality, we do need to exist in the real world, even if it might suck. Also, if we live our whole lives in the virtual world we can miss out on some of the best things that life has to offer. It also touches on the subject of corruption and corporate greed.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ready Player One! I do get all the complaints about it, but for me this was a fun science-fiction action adventure video.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle.

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Margarita Engle is a Cuban American torn between the two worlds that make up her heritage. She loves Cuba and the carefree days she enjoyed when she would go visit her mom’s family, but she is stuck living in Los Angeles which is a far cry from the beautiful life of Cuba. But when the Cuban Revolution breaks out and ties between Cuba and the United States grows tense, Margarita must deal with the fact that her beloved Cuba may never be the place that she once knew it to be, and with the prejudice that comes with being half-Cuban and the hate between two countries.

Enchanted Air is a lyrical memoir told in verse. It is written in such a way that readers are transported along with the author through her experiences as a child and then as a teenagers. Very early on we see her struggle between her love for Cuba and her life in the U.S., “Am I free to need both, or will have to choose only one way of thinking?” (13). She feels like she has to choose between the countries and that she is not allowed to love both in their own ways. It provides a first-hand refection of what it was like being a young Cuban American during the Cuban Revolution, the Bay of Pigs and The Cuban Missile Crisis.

Margarita’s family is founded on the immigrant experience, because her mom is a Cuban immigrant, and then her paternal grandparents had to flee from Ukraine and have every few memories of their life there. And although their experiences are different from that of her mother who immigrated to the States to be with her father, but she longs to go back to her homeland and her family.

When the Cuban Revolution starts, the author has to deal with horrible and ignorant comments from her classmates and teachers because she is half Cuban. Even her mother has to undergo scrutiny just because she is Cuban, for example, she is interrogated by the FBI because they think she could be communist spy. And when her and her mother travel to Cuba for a short visit with her mother’s family, she discovers that the Cuban soldiers have animosity towards America and vice versa. However, despite Cuba being somewhat war-torn, the author remembers having and idyllic summer there when she as nine years old.

Against the backdrop of turmoil, the author discovers a love for reading, “Books are enchanted. Books help me travel. Books help me breathe.” (54). They provide a way from her to escape from the reality of everything going on around her. She also discusses the isolation her mother feels because she realizes she might not get to go back Cuba when tensions get even worse between them and the U.S. And the author herself reminisces about the day when she will be able to go back to Cuba to visit her mother’s family, even though things look bleak.

I loved this memoir and I am planning on picking up the companion memoir soon, and I will have a review for that too! 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Video Game Review: Disneyland Adventures

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on the video game Disneyland Adventures.

Buy Disneyland Adventures - Microsoft Store
Taken from Microsoft.

Join Mickey and his friends at the happiest place on earth – Disneyland. Explore the parks, complete tasks and collect items for some of Disney’s beloved characters. Enjoy playing mini-games centered around some of Disneyland’s most popualr rides, and even get to ride on a few of them.

The start of the game to seem slow, especially with creating the avatar, and then completing some tasks for Mickey, but it starts pick up after the first few minutes. The whole game is very atmospheric and feels like you are walking through the actual park based of the original one in Anaheim. The music is also atmospheric and of course it is some of the tunes that Disney fans have grown to love over the years.

Players get to choose whether they want to be guided to the various characters or through the various tasks, which cna be useful considering how big the park is, but there is the option to do it without assistance. Besides running aroung the park, there are also shortcuts to get to the various lands, simply by clinck on them on the park map that can be found in settings.

People of all ages will enjoy this game, especially fans of Disney and Disneyland.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

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Taylor Jones is the star pupil of the Aurora Academy and as a result he gets to be the first Ace to pick his crew at graduation. However, he ends up missing graduation and as a result he gets stuck with a ragtag team of leftover cadets and he must figure out a way for them to come together. Then there is also the reason why he missed his graduation, he discovered an abandoned and decrepit ship in the Fold and inside was cryogenically frozen girl who was about to die if he hadn’t rescued her. However, there is something strange about Aurora, which happens to be the girl’s name, she was found a ship that disappeared over 200 years ago, and the destination that she says she was going to is in a restricted area, and there is no records of her family. Not only that, but when she stows away on his ship during his crew’s first mission, they all find themselves fugitives on the run, as well as something mysterious and creepy about those that are after them. What is really going, and how does Aurora fit into all of this?

Aurora Rising was an interesting Science fiction story, however it is also slow in some places, while also trying to accomplish too much plot-wise.

It does deal with some interesting themes, namely with stereotypes and how they are not always true. For example, Kal is from an alien race that is looked down upon by the rest of the galaxy, not only that but he is also from the warrior faction of that race which is known to be genocidal. As a result some of the crew members are wary of him. Aurora is also viewed suspiciously because it is discovered that she has powers and she has very little control over them. The novel also touches on the topic of refugees and how they are not always treated the way they should be, especially when they are on the run from a war-torn country.

Aurora Rising also deals with lies, conspiracies and cover ups, especially when the truth about what happened to Octavia III – the planet Aurora was headed to 200 years prior – has been covered up and wiped from history. When Aurora tries to tell others about what she remembers, no one seems to know what she is talking about.

The villain of the novel is very interesting, because of just one person, it is a gestalt that also takes the form of a virus of sorts that zombifies its victims. However, I do wish that we were given more details about it, because it leaves readers with more questions than answers about what is going on. Also, randomly Aurora ends up being a part of the weapon that can be used to destroy this evil entity, which kind of makes sense, but again very few details are given about this, probably to get readers to pick up the next book in the series.

Some other reviewers have stated that the problem with Aurora Rising tries too hard to be like Guardians of Galaxy, and that is definitely true. However, it is still a fun read for those who are looking for something that reads similar to those movies.

Overall, this was an okay read, but it is definitely a let down for fans of The Illuminae Files. And even though the ending was intriguing, I still don’t have a desire to continue on with this series because I found myself both bored and confused for most of it. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

January Wrap-Up and February TBR

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my January Wrap-up and February TBR. Today I plan on sharing all the books I managed to read in January – however, I will just be giving the title and my rating, because I plan on having individual reviews for each of these books up on the blog in the coming months, where I will share my more in-depth thoughts on each book. At the end of this post, I will share the three books that I want to read and plan on definitely reading in the month of February.

JANUARY WRAP-UP

Code Girls by Liza Mundy

4/5 Stars

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

5/5 Stars

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

3/5 Stars

Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans

4/5 Stars

The Road to Grace by Richard Paul Evans

5/5 Stars

Anne of Windy Willows by L. M. Montgomery

4/5 Stars

A Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans

4.5/5 Stars

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

3/5 Stars

Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans

4/5 Stars

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

4/5 Stars

Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

3/5 Stars

Call Me Athena by Colby Cedar Smith

4.5/5 Stars

Orphan Island by Laurel V. Snyder

3/5 Stars

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth – DNF’d

Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley

Not giving a rating.

Elsie’s Holidays at Roselands by Martha Finley

Not giving a rating.

The Flirtation Experiment by Phylicia Masonheimer and Lisa Jacobsen

5/5 Stars

Elsie’s Girlhood by Martha Finley

Not giving a rating

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

4/5 Stars.

Elsie’s Womanhood by Martha Finley

Not rating.

The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

4/5 Stars.

FEBRUARY TBR

The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

This is one my most anticipated non-fiction reads. It is by the same of author of Radium Girls, which I loved. This one sounds really good to, it takes a look at insane asylums, as well as how some of the people placed in the asylums did not need to be there. I’m looking forward to diving into this one really soon.

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

I know that this book is going to be hard-hitting because it is set in a town during World War II where a Japanese internment camp has just opened up close by. I’m sure this will evoke a lot of emotions, as well as be informative about a piece of history that I’ve only heard about in passing.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

I’ll be honest, I know very little bit about this one, and it is definitely one that I picked up because it sounded interesting and the little that I did read of the synopsis makes it seem like it might be right up my alley. I don’t know if I want to know a lot going in, because I would like to have some surprises going into it. I do know that it is a multi-generational tale, which is something I’ve found I really enjoy reading.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

First Line Fridays #91 – The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another installment of First Line Fridays hosted by Reading is My Superpower.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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“The morning one of the lost twins returned to Mallard, Lou LeBon ran to the diner to break the news, and even now, many years later, everyone remembers the shock of sweaty Lou pushing through the glass doors, chest heaving, neckline darkened with his own effort.”

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.