Top 10 Tuesday: Recent TBRs

Welcome back to Top 10 Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s topic is Ten Books I’ve Added To My To-Be-Read List Lately. I’m really excited to share some of my new TBR titles tonight. So here is my list (in no particular order). Enjoy!

My Name is Resolute by Nancy E. Turner // I am reading this for my book club this month. It’s a big one but I hear it’s amazing!

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay // I am excited to read this Austen inspired novel recommended to me by the lovely Carrie at Reading is my Superpower🙂

The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White // I can’t wait to read this second book in the Ladies of the Manor series. Check out my review of the first novel.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown // A friend in my book club recently recommended this one to me. I really enjoyed the parts I read of Brown’s Daring Greatly so I’m excited to try this one too.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes // So excited to read this book recommended by my bookish twin Amanda at Cover2CoverMom🙂

Dragon Slippers and Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George // After enjoying Princess of the Midnight Ball by George, I am eager to read more from this children’s fantasy author.

Love from Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother by Donald Sturrock // I am kind of into letter collections now that I have read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s letters to Almanzo from San Francisco. I believe Caitlin over at Caitlin Stern Writes recommended this one🙂

The Heiress of Winterwood and The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E. Ladd // I keep hearing great things about Ladd’s novels so I’m excited to give these a try. Pretty sure they come from the amazing Carrie at Reading is my Superpower (the best thing that’s ever happened to my TBR is to read Carrie’s blog😉 )

What did you recently add to your TBR?

[One of the Few]: An eARC Review

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I have the opportunity to participate in the Re-Launch Anniversary Event of One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview by Jason B. Ladd. For more information about the author or the book, follow the provided links. This memoir tells the story of Jason’s discovery of the Christian faith. Excited to share some thoughts today!

I received an eARC copy of One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.

I haven’t read many books like this one. I would not call it a novel. It’s part memoir, part Christian research paper, and part small history of the Marine Corp. For me, that makes it more unique than my usual genre. And that made it worthwhile.

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One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview by Jason B. Ladd is the story is his journey to accepting the Christian worldview as a U. S. marine. The book pairs the author’s experiences with thoughts from Christian philosophers and the scriptures. He showcases the ways Christianity and military service can be intertwined. Additionally, Jason discusses many topics in connection with Christianity–looking at everything from drinking alcohol to raising children through the lens of God. Ultimately, Jason is able to find added meaning and peace in life through Jesus Christ.

My favorite elements in this book were the personal stories Jason shares. I enjoyed his candor and humor as he related events from his childhood, dating stories when courting his wife, and experiences while in training and combat as a U. S. Marine. These stories created a positive tone and engaging story line for readers to follow. They highlight a myriad of emotions and experiences that all led Jason to God in some way. These stories made me stop and think about which experiences are my defining moments in life. How has my life been changed because of my Christian faith?

If anything, I would have liked more personal anecdotes from Jason and less theological history. There were several chapters that felt long-winded and difficult to focus in because of the extended quoting from historical sources and shortness of his personal stories. The historical sources were sometimes boring to read through. (Perhaps this comes from my personal background in Christianity so it often was not new information for me). I wanted more from him and less from other sources. I admit that I skimmed through some of the parts to get back to the main narration of Jason’s story.

Because of his frankness and openness, Jason creates a bond between himself and his readers as the book progresses. He shares many stories about his life and those stories offer his readers a window into his life. We get a glimpse of his struggles and his triumphs, his difficulties and his successes. Jason shares some very personal memories with his audience (I’m thinking especially of his and his wife’s experiences with losing a young baby) that draw out deep emotional responses. That makes Jason a relatable and enjoyable narrator. He doesn’t present himself as perfect. In fact, often he does the complete opposite. He is just like so many of us who are on the path to understanding Christian discipleship–trying to be a positive influence in the world.

It is refreshing to read a book that focuses on the ways that Christian faith can bring meaning and happiness to life. In today’s society, we often see less faith rather than more in the media. We are surrounded by scientific advances that seem to taunt or discard the reality of God. Faith is not always popular or easy. But Jason’s book shows us that the journey is worth it. It is worth going through the self discovery to discover what you believe. It is worth it to study and learn about Christ and come to know Him. It is worth it to attend church and gain a strong faith. It is worth building on that faith for times of difficulty.

This book is replete with inspirational quotes about Jason’s journey and the ways we can begin similar journeys to strengthen our faith. Jason writes quite eloquently about the ways his training in the marines is similar to everyday life. He makes several profound connections between fighting the enemies of our country and of God and between preparation for those battles. Some of the most powerful ones for me were the chapters that discussed the role of parents. It was encouraging to read a book that forwards the importance of the influence of parents in today’s world. Some of my favorite quotes are below:

The title of this book creates a beautiful call to action for readers. A book like needs to empower readers to act–to do something different after they finish reading. I think the title creates that needed empowerment. Jason acknowledges that Christian faith is not always popular today. It will probably be difficult. But it will also be worth it. Will you choose to be “One of the Few?”

For me, this book wasn’t revolutionary or life-changing. Jason didn’t relate anything that blew my mind or made me question my entire worldview. As I have mentioned before, I am LDS or Mormon so I am already Christian. I am building my foundation of faith everyday and finding that my faith can sustain me though intensely difficult times. If anything, I appreciated this book because of it’s simplicity and faith. I’m glad such a book exists and felt my determination to strengthen my faith increase as I read this book.

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What books have you read recently that strengthened your faith?

 

[Frankenstein]: A Review

Happy Saturday, y’all! I’m excited for some good family time this weekend and hopefully knocking this nasty cold out for good!

Today I am here with a review of a book that surprised me: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This book has an interesting reputation. We all know the name. We can name several movies that connect to or allude to the story (Young Frankenstein, anyone?🙂 ) Everyone knows the character Frankenstein that looks something like this:

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Have you seen Hotel Transylvania where this version of Frankenstein comes from? It’s surprisingly clever.

But the intriguing thing is that the monster in the original novel is not Frankenstein. That is the name of his creator–Victor Frankenstein. I wonder when we made the switch in pop culture to call the monster by the name of the creator. But perhaps, it could offer an interesting discussion of who is the monster in this book.

I don’t read horror novels. They freak me out, so I don’t enjoy them. I would not call Frankenstein a horror novel (although it certainly is scary and intense). It is, however, a ghost story. Shelley first told it in  1816 during an unusually rainy summer while on holiday with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. It was an instant success when published in 1818. And I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

I listened to this classic on audio book and thought that hearing the prose added to it’s ghostly charm. Plus, it helped me focus on the action better. I highly recommend listening to classic novels on audio book. I have done that for several lately and I really enjoy it. Sometimes I have the novel open and sometimes not. Either way, the audio book keeps me moving forward in the text and often the readings are very well done.

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a ghost story about the monster created by the young scholar Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with finding a way to create life in a new way, Victor spends years in the pursuit before success. That success, however, haunts him for the rest of his life. The monster is hugely terrifying and Victor is appalled by his creation. Although the monster wants to find love and companionship, Victor will not give it.. But instead the monster kills a string of people close to Victor and exacts a lifelong revenge against him. This story is all described within a backdrop of a young sailor writing to his sister from near the north pole. He encounters Victor at the end of his life and learns his story. Is it too late for Victor to change and who is the true villain in this story?

The main characters–Victor and the monster–are intriguing and complex driving the story forward. I think it’s impossible to talk about one without the other. I was fascinated by their interactions and the ways Victor could have helped the monster to be good and accepted in the world. The monster wanted to be loved. He wanted to understand the meaning of life from his creator–Victor. But Victor seemed determined from the first moment he had succeeded in seeing the monster as only an evil being–incapable of change or goodness. These interactions made me wonder how the whole story could have been different if Victor had tried to help the monster.

I wonder who is the bigger “monster” in this novel. Perhaps that ambiguity is what makes the story so scary. My mom read this book when she was in college and she has told me that she is unsure if the created monster is the true villain of the story. I agree with her. Victor seemed unprepared and rather naive in his creation of life and then abandonment of it. Then Victor becomes obsessed with the destruction of the monster but ultimately cannot defeat him. I was annoyed with Victor because of this one sided view of everything. I think he could have done a lot more good in his life if he had tried. Is it the monster’s fault that he feels such anger and hatred towards Victor? Does he deserve more from Victor? I think the answer is yes.

The action is intense and fast pace in this shorter novel. That makes this classic really accessible. It’s a classic that many people can enjoy because it’s not to long and is a fairly easy read. I was surprised to find myself so immersed in the story. I found myself holding my breath as Victor went searching for the monster and as we heard about each death. I wanted to scream at Victor to not leave Elizabeth alone on their wedding night (it was so obvious the monster would go for her!) and nearly cried for him as he lost all that he loved.

Shelley has a beautiful style and a compelling voice that adds depth and emotion to this story. I found myself admiring her language just as much as her story. She draws her audience in with compelling descriptions and powerful word choice. It is in her language that we learn some great lessons about life and love. And about the power of one person to create good or evil in the world. This book will make you feel sophisticated in reading its gorgeous style and also accomplished because you can definitely finish it.

A few examples of her beautiful language:

The ending is the most intriguing part of the book and also one of the best I’ve read recently. I don’t want to give anything away but I think the ambiguity and emotion is really well done here.

If I have one complaint, it’s that the novel is a bit slow to get going. I think the context with the young sailor is unnecessary and didn’t really get excited about the novel until we start learning Victor’s story several pages in.

Overall, a fantastic novel that surprised, shocked, and satisfied me. A great classic to start with if you’re trying to read more of them. A perfect Halloween novel. But what I love most about this novel is what it teaches readers about life, love, and choices. Lots of powerful lessons to be learned from this novel. Basically, I think we should all read it.

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This novel is another one finished for my list with The Classics Club. Check out my full list here. For more info on the club, click here.

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October Wrap-Up and November TBR

Welcome to November, everyone! I love this time of year and all the anticipation of the holidays to come. We have a lot of fun plans and visits this month. Can’t wait!

This fall has been great for my reading. October was busy and exciting with visits and fun and great books.

What an amazing October! Here’s what’s coming this month.

For the Little House Read Along:

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On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894 by Laura Ingalls Wilder // Looking forward to some more nonfiction from Laura this month.

For my Harry Potter Marathon 2016:

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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling // One of my favorite books in the series. I am so excited to reread this!

For The Classics Club:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy // I want to read as much as I can and hopefully finish this month! Wow, this is big!

Look for my review of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley this month too. I really loved this novel!

For Book Club:

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My Name is Resolute by Nancy E. Turner // I joined my church book club last month! I love book clubs. This month we are reading this long historical fiction novel. Looking forward to it!

For Fun:

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin // I’m about half way through this quirky book about a bookseller who gets a second chance at life. I am actually really enjoying it.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir // My sister recommended this new fantasy novel to me and I’m excited to read it!

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by // I just got this in from the library and am excited to read this novel recommended by the wonderful Amanda at Cover2CoverMom.

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Also this month, look for my eARC review of One of the Few by Jason B. Ladd as part of the book’s relaunch event!

What are you reading this month?

Top 5 Wednesday: I wish you had a sequel!

Hi everyone! Today I’m back with a post as part of Top 5 Wednesday. T5W is a weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ThoughtsOnTomes.  You can visit the Goodreads T5W group for more info. This week I’m picking an old topic again (I just keep finding fun ones!) Today’s is books I wish had sequels.

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These books are all wonderful. And this list mainly springs for my wanting to read more books by these authors–especially their unique tones and characters. Enjoy!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak // I absolutely love this novel! I want to reread it so I can review it properly here. I don’t mind if this is a true sequel or just another book written with Death as the narrator. I’d love more!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern // I can’t get enough of this circus and it’s incredible exhibits. Would love more about what happens after this book.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett // Another amazing novel that is stand alone. I wonder what happens years down the road to these amazing characters. I would love to read about these amazing women.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith // The style of this book is clever and infectious. I want to know what happens after the ending (which is really ambiguous).

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford // One of my recent favorite novels set in Seattle during WWII and the 1980s. I love everything about this book. But I desperately would love to see the ending be carried further.

What books do you want to have sequels?

Top 10 Tuesday: Book Club Picks I would actually finish

Hi everyone! Happy November! We are breaking out the Christmas music already and starting the countdown to Christmas. I love this time of year and can’t wait to make special memories this year.

Today I’m back with a post as part of Top 10 Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s theme is Top Ten Books To Read If Your Book Club Likes ____. I really love book clubs. But I can be pretty bad at actually reading the books for book club.

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I often come just to chat with friends. Part of this is my own fault. Sometimes, I run out of time or have no interest in reading the book (especially since I have a huge TBR that I want to read!). But I’ve had book clubbers pick obscure Native American histories and massive 800+ page mystery novels. While these are certainly interesting to someone, they can a bit intimidating or boring for a book club of varying readers.

I think book club books need to be shorter (200-300 pages) and give you a lot to talk about. And it helps if they are more popular books. I think that gets more people excited about them. Disclaimer: this list is my opinion. No guarantees on book club love🙂

So we come to my TTT this week: top 10 books that your book club will actually read.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford // I read this WWII novel earlier this year and loved it. I think it would a compelling book club novel with so much to discuss.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio // This book is easy to read and offers some compelling themes that apply easily to moms of school aged kids. Great for mommy book clubs🙂

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens // A classic that we all know and love but fewer have read. It’s not too long and even if you can’t read the text, you can watch a movie adaptation and still participate in the discussion!

The Giver by Lois Lowry // A classic middle school required read that is more poignant as you get older. Another book that isn’t as long as you think and offers such interesting discussion topics on life, choice, and memory.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer // I don’t think book clubs read enough fantasy! I think it would be so fun to read this first installment in the Lunar Chronicles because it is clever, fast-paced, and your teenage daughters will want to read it one day with you!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley // I’m about 3/4ths of the way through this classic which would forward a great discussion in a book club. Plus, it’s only about 200 pages so more doable for classic lovers and novices alike.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James // For all you Austen fans, this is a fun mystery set in the world of Pride and Prejudice. A fast-paced and exciting novel that would be fun to explore with fellow Austen fans.

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson // For something different, this memoir offers a beautiful message of hope, healing, and faith. A book that everyone can enjoy and learn from, I think.

A book from The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (besides The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) // I feel like if you’ve read one Narnia book it’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a great one. But the other novels are equally compelling and offer beautiful themes and Christian allegories. Plus, they are all short novels.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling et al // Mostly, I just want to talk to more people about this book. What better way than in a book club?

What books are your go to novels for book clubs?

[The Lost Heiress]: A Review

Happy Halloween, everyone! We’re taking it easy at home today and nursing heavy colds. Hope your holiday is a great one!

Today I’m here with a review of The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White. This is the first book I’ve read by White and the first in her Ladies of the Manor Series.

This novel also continues my recent obsession with historical romance novels. Set primarily in Edwardian period England (1910’s), this novel was gripping from the first page. I found myself transported to another time and place that I had little experience with. I am really enjoying the historical fiction I have read lately for the unique time periods. I highly recommend them!

If I had to choose a favorite element in this novel, it would be the characters. White creates dynamic characters with complex personalities and vivid emotions. If anything, I want more stories giving us further background on other characters downstairs and upstairs. Excited to read more books in this series!

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The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White follows the story of Brook Eden who was raised in Monaco but always wondered where she truly belonged. When her dearest friend Justin discovers that Brook is really a British heiress, she decides to move home to the English Moors. While her father immediately accepts her, Brook must win the loyalty and love of her extended family and the servants of Whitby Park. Soon, Brook finds herself at the center of an elaborate mystery about her mother’s death and her own future. Justin inherits the dukedom and must travel the world to manage his estates. Only then do Brook and Justin discover their love for each other only when they are driven far apart due to varying responsibilities and loyalties. Can they find a way to be together? And can Brook uncover the secrets of her mother’s death and save her own life?

Brook is a strong-minded and courageous protagonist who easily has readers routing for her. Brook is a lot like all of us. She wants to belong. She wants to find her family. She has doubts and fears about love and life. But she works to overcome those fears to find true happiness. I enjoyed experiencing her journey from unknown daughter of an opera singer to the heiress and favorite of London. I also appreciated her fierce loyalty and courage. Most of all, I admired Brook’s battle for faith. She is not always confident in the future. In fact, she has a rather grim view on love and marriage at the start of the novel. But I love her for her willingness to change and to fight for what she believes is right.

Brook’s relationship with Justin is one of the most exasperating and swoon-worthy love stories I have read recently. I knew (or hoped) they would end up together. But it seemed to take almost every page for them to figure things out. And that had me turning pages quickly to figure out if they get their happily ever after together. It’s a rocky road. They drive each other crazy. They share some lovely romantic moments. Then they say the wrong things. They are worried that love is not enough. But that all passes away when they finally meet under the right circumstances at the ruin of the abbey. That scene makes the whole love story worth it. Perhaps, because they are imperfect and their love has challenges as well, Justin and Brook are all the more relatable.

Perhaps this quote says it best:

“Love is always a miracle. Especially in this world.”

The Lost Heiress, page 171

One of my favorite characters was actually Deidre because she goes through such a drastic transformation throughout the novel. She begins as a very unlikable character with dangerous connections and dishonest intentions. But she forms a strong friendship with Brook as her lady’s maid and that changes her life. I love the ways Deidre fights for Brook and seeks to save her from the mystery and evil that would take Brook’s life like her mother’s.

What surprised me about this novel was the action and mystery that is interwoven throughout the story as frequently as the romance. I have not read many historical mysteries beyond Sherlock Holmes but I quite enjoyed this one. It was different for me and grabbed my attention refusing to let it go until the final page. At the heart of this story is the mystery of the “fire eyes” and how these rare jewels bring the death of Brook’s mother and several others. People will do anything to get their hands on them. And these jewels create a tone of intensity and excitement in the novel.

My favorite aspect of this novel was the dual perspectives. I love that we get inside the head of Brook, Justin, and Deidre for extended periods of time. I think that adds to the mystery and suspense of the novel because the point of view frequently shifts. And it helps readers get to know the characters better. Getting inside Deidre’s head was especially interesting. I loved hearing more about her complicated background and would have loved even more details about her complex past.

This novel, like many of my recent favorites, also includes a beautiful element of faith in it’s story. Brook’s struggle to trust God and have faith is an ongoing part of the story–as well as Deidre’s struggle to choose good over evil no matter the consequences. I appreciated the Bible verses that stuck out to Brook in her morning readings. Reading the word of God brings peace and strength to my life as well. I am impressed by the seamless way faith drives this story.

One of my favorite quotes comes near the end of the novel and sums up the way faith can lead us.

“God does not just instruct us to forgive–He instructs us to trust. To trust that, even though life hurts us, He will take care of us. That even if we lose the ones we love, He will sustain us through it.”

The Lost Heiress, page 342

Overall, a fabulous novel that has me excited for more to come! The ending was satisfying and left plenty open for sequels. Excited to read them!

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Which time periods do you enjoy reading novels set in?

[West from Home]: A Review

Hi everyone! Today I’m here with my October review as part of the Little House Read Along hosted by Bex @ An Armchair by the Sea and Lynn @ Smoke and Mirrors. These last three months of the year are dedicated to Laura’s letters and biographies. Looking forward to them! More info about the read along can be found through the links above. Check it out with the read along hashtag (#LittleHouseRAL) and join us anytime!

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I’m actually switching this month and November because the book for this month is checked out at the library and won’t be in until after October is over. So I decided to read West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco 1915 this month.

This collection of letters was found in the Wilder home after Laura, Almanzo, and Rose had all died. Roger MacBride, Rose’s lawyer and friend, decided to publish them in the 1970s.

For me, this was like getting an epilogue after the “happily ever after.” I usually want more details about life after books end. And these letters do just that for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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West from Home is a collection of letters that Laura wrote to her husband, Almanzo (or Manly) when she went to visit their daughter Rose and her husband in San Francisco in 1915. Laura writes of the train journey to San Francisco and all the adventures she has there. The world’s fair was in San Francisco at the time to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal and Laura was able to attend many exhibitions there. Throughout the collection, she acts as Manly’s eyes–showing him the expanse and beauty of the ocean, the sites and sounds of the fair, and the details of everyday life.

What stands out first to me is that this is nonfiction. These letters are not based on Laura’s life, but are an actual part of her life. She really went to visit Rose and wrote back to Manly. I love that we get a true glimpse into the Wilder’s lives and their relationship. Laura writes every couple of days and fills her letters with images and stories of her trip. I enjoyed that. What also amazed me was that these letters sound much like the Little House Books. They have the same tone and description. That makes me think that Laura wasn’t creating the scenes for the popular children’s books so much as narrating what she remembers in her life. I love that.

I have not read many letter collections (I can’t think of any others right now). So this was something different for me. I enjoyed reading them. But I would have liked it better to have Manly’s responses also included. We can feel Laura’s love and imagination in her letters. But I wonder what Manly’s hold? If there’s one thing I wish the Little House Series had, it would be more emotion from them during their courtship and early marriage. We get a glimpse of that from Laura who is homesick and worried about Manly in every letter. Hearing Manly’s side of the trip would be interesting too.

Laura has a unique gift for describing the sights and sounds of this trip. She so vividly depicts the ocean and the sunset that I felt that I was there. I longed to accompany her to the Worlds Fair, to see fireworks above the bay, to wander the beach and small towns further out. I laughed out loud when Rose wrote to her father concerned about Laura growing fat. What a difference from the long winters of earlier books! All the descriptions were well done and now I want to visit San Francisco again after reading of her adventures.

I was amazed by the ways technology is so similar to today and yet so distant from it. It takes Laura several days to make the trip from Missouri and it would only take hours to fly now. But she goes out to restaurants with Rose, rides a street car (trolley) around the city, and sees almost nightly fireworks at the fair. The world came so far from the early books when the Ingalls travel by covered wagon to Indian Territory. Now Laura can just go for a visit to California with few problems. That is amazing!

I think the letters were just the right length–just over 100 pages. While they are enjoyable, they are not super plot driven and the descriptions of the fair can only go on for so long. The collection reads easily because the individual letters break up the collection easier than chapter. Also, I really enjoyed the pictures from 1910’s San Francisco–that was a neat touch to bring the stories to life even more.

Overall, a neat, historical read that anyone who enjoys the Little House books will appreciate.

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Have you read any great letter collections?

[Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix]: A Review

Welcome to my October post featuring Harry Potter! This month’s book is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I left this until the end of the month, again. And again I found myself absolutely swept up into the story. It only took me a few days to finish this 800+ novel. Excited to share some thoughts on this one.

To be honest, I usually describe this book as my least favorite in the series. Harry has a lot of teenage angst, and I really hate that Sirius dies. I don’t get why he had to die. I don’t get the curtain. I think Harry deserves one parent figure to live in his life. And I just love Sirius. But it definitely still has the magic and excitement of the series.

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My first experience with this book – I was a teenager when this book was first published. And it was easily the longest book I hard read up to that point (in fact, it’s still up there!). I remember enjoying scenes when Harry could be with Sirius, laughing at how dumb Harry is with Cho, and finding the complexities of the prophecy fascinating. Of course, I hated Umbridge (still do). I wanted to be a part of the DA and learn to defend myself from dark wizards. This book really starts to hint at the bigger plot twists to come in the final books. I just didn’t have any idea they were coming when I read this the first time!

What surprised me this time – How long-winded this book can feel. It is the opposite of books 1-3. I don’t think it actually has to be almost 900 pages. Yes, you need several hundred to explain everything and have all the plot twists. But some things were too long or unnecessary. I was also surprised by how purely evil Dolores Umbridge is! I know she is bad but I forgot how bad. She is horrible! She hates the students and professors. She is incredible corrupt and she just keeps doing more and more ridiculous things. I got so mad when she suspended Harry from Quidditch and gave him detention writing lines in his own blood. Wow, can JK Rowling write a villian or what?

A few thoughts on genre – I was talking to my husband after reading this book and remarked that I wonder when Rowling knew how the whole series would end. It seems like she knows more details in this book. It’s the first time we hear about the prophecy about Harry and Voldemort–also the connection between them is further explained. We get hints of what Dumbledore wants to do to defeat Voldemort as well but the word horcrux is not used yet. I really do wonder when Rowling knew the full story. The darkness and evil continues to escalate in this book. Definitely not a book for young children. But what I love about these books is that good and light triumph over darkness and evil in the end.

Who I love most in this book – I adore Fred and George Weasley in this book. The ways they are building their business and the pranks they pull on Umbridge are amazing! I love that even though they act like they don’t care, they actually work really hard to pursue their dreams of opening a joke shop. Neville Longbottom surprised me this time and was a really intriguing character. I really like seeing more of his background when Harry, Ron and Hermione meet him at the hospital. And I love the way he improves in the DA and his heroics in the Department of Mysteries. Luna Lovegood is just a fantastic character and is acted perfectly in the movies. She is quirky and weird and doesn’t care. Love her. I love Tonks as well. She is carefree and brave in this book. So much changes for her later. Wish I had a friend like her. And of course, Sirius. He goes through so much in life, but he manages to keep supporting Harry even until the end.

How I see Harry, Ron, and Hermione changing – Harry is starting to understand his role in the war against Voldemort more clearly. He is growing up fast but also still is such a teenager in this book. I must admit, I got annoyed at his short temper and the easy way Voldemort tricks him into going to the Ministry of Magic. But I also felt so sad for him when he loses Sirius (I hate his death!!) and must continue on alone. Ron goes on a neat journey in this book. He is finally picked for something Harry isn’t–school prefect and he gets to be the Quidditch hero without Harry. I love that he is loyal and brave and still a bit awkward. Hermione is the glue that keeps everything going in this series. Seriously, it’s her idea to start the DA, she has an incredible ability to remember everything she’s ever read, and she starts seeing that the world is bigger than grades and tests. She is my favorite character in this book.

What I learn from this book – Honest communication is always better than no communication. Dumbledore tries to protect Harry by not telling him about the prophecy and distancing himself throughout the year. But it ends quite badly. Snape and Harry never really work together to help Harry learn Occlumency leading Harry to try to save Sirius. Someone else should have taught Harry. Fudge and Umbridge try to hide the fact that Voldemort has returned and end up looking ridiculous when they are proved wrong. The list goes on. Love is a great weapon against evil. I love (no pun intended) that love keeps coming up in this series as such a powerful and essential tool to fight evil. Harry’s mother protects him with her love. The Dursleys’ home is also protected by it. And Voldemort cannot possess Harry for long because Harry thinks of Sirius. Love is what saves them all.

How I would teach this book in a class – I would love to have a discussion or perhaps a debate about the ways the Ministry of Magic vs Dumbledore react to the news that Voldemort has returned. Comparing their reactions and arguing why either is best would be interesting. I would also enjoy having students write a comparison essay of Sirius compared to Harry in this book. In many ways, they experience similar emotions and conversations. How are they similar? How are they different? Because we are getting further in the series, I would also like to discuss the themes that are arching over the full series–light vs darkness, good vs evil, friendship and love, power and destruction. Also would be interesting to discuss the changes in a character through the first 5 books. Harry is an obvious choice, but what about Neville, Ginny, or Professor McGonagall? How have they changed and developed?

I’m going to need a wall dedicated just to Harry Potter quotes in my dream house. So many great ones in this one like the others!

I enjoying this book more than I expected to this time around. But I still think it’s a bit lower on my favorites list. I just can’t get over Sirius dying. Can’t wait to read 6 in November!

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What do you think of The Order of the Phoenix?
Which is your favorite Harry Potter book?

Top 5 Wednesday: Spooky Settings

I am excited to post again this week with Top 5 Wednesday! T5W is a weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ThoughtsOnTomes.  You can visit the Goodreads T5W group for more info. This week’s theme is Spooky Settings--which goes along quite well with my post from yesterday.

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Sleepy Hollow Cemetery from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow // Okay, I have not actually read this story yet. But I have recently rewatched the Disney cartoon. And that headless horseman is scary! Fun fact, I have visited the actual Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and it’s really neat!

The Games Arenas from The Hunger Games // When you think about it, this is really a terrifying setting. Children are put in a hostile environment sent to kill each other. It’s dangerous and scary. And a great setting!

Geneva, Switzerland from Frankenstein // I am about half way through this novel by Mary Shelley. I find the hill where Victor’s brother is killed and he first sees the monster near his home really creepy.

The Maze from The Maze Runner // I have my issues with this book and it’s plot. But the terror of the maze is well written and definitely a bit freaky. Check out my review here.

The Department of Mysteries from Harry Potter // There are a lot of settings from Harry Potter that I love and that are spooky. I am reading The Order of the Phoenix right now and this one jumps out at me. Between the prophecies and the death eaters and the mysterious nature of the place, this department really is spooky.

What are some of your favorite spooky settings?