Tag Archive for: 3 Stars

I read several books this year that I haven’t reviewed on my blog. Instead of writing individual reviews for them all, I thought I’d do a mini review of each of them. The first two are non-fiction and the rest are fiction.

Non-Fiction

Mini Reviews #1Title: Atomic Habits
Author: James Clear
Genre(s): Non-Fiction
Pages: 306
Source: Borrowed
For: Recommended
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0 Flames

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Earlier this year, I told my therapist I was having a hard time following through with my goals to exercise more and eat healthier. He suggested I read ATOMIC HABITS, stating that most of the things James Clear had to say were spot on. I decided to listen to the audiobook because Corey already owned a copy.

The audiobook is narrated by James Clear and is very well done. I thought he had a lot of great ideas, like habit stacking. To my surprise, a lot of his ideas align really well with DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) skills. I’ve decided I need to read a physical copy of ATOMIC HABITS so I can annotate the things that are helpful to me to implement what I learned.


Mini Reviews #1Title: Radical Love
Author: Zachary Levi
Genre(s): Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Borrowed
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0 Flames

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In July, we each read a memoir of our choice for book club. I had already read Marsha Linehan’s memoir but I have wanted to read Zachary Levi’s for a long time. I decided to read RADICAL LOVE a couple of months later.

I’m so glad I decided to listen to the audiobook because Levi, himself, narrates it and talks about his struggles with depression, suicidal ideation, and his feelings of worthlessness. I truly enjoyed RADICAL LOVE. It was raw, emotional, uplifting, and hopeful. It helped remind me that none of us are alone and there’s always help when we need it. I’m glad he sought help during his darkest moments, start the healing process of managing his mental health, and forgiving the abuse he suffered at the hands of his parents.

Fiction

Mini Reviews #1Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E Smith
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, YA
Pages: 236
Source: Borrowed
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

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During the first half of the year, I was trying to participate in the POP Sugar Challenge. One of the prompts was a book that takes place all in one day. I had wanted to read THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT (mouthful) for a while.

THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT was the perfect book to get me to actually sit down and read, something I struggled with for most of 2023. I really enjoyed reading Hadley’s story. Jennifer E Smith’s writing helped draw me right in. I loved the chemistry between Hadley and Oliver. I also found myself grinning stupidly as I read the bantering between them. I also loved watching Hadley and Oliver deal with life’s ups and downs during the day they were together. You may think that the story seems fantastical to happen all in one day, but it just added to the magic.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Measure
Author: Nikki Erlick
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Pages: 353
Source: Borrowed
For: Recommended
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

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Last December, one of the people in my book club recommended THE MEASURE. When I was trying to decide what to read in August, THE MEASURE came to mind.

I decided to listen to the audiobook of THE MEASURE and I was hooked from the beginning. The narrator did a fantastic job. The story’s so compelling that I’d find time to listen to the audiobook and I kept thinking about the strings and characters in between listenings.

I loved Nikki Erlick’s twist on the mythology of The Fates. Just like all the characters, I wanted to understand the mysteries of the boxes and strings. I cared about most of the characters and how their lives were affected by the strings. I also loved the message that life can be meaningful no matter how long it is.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Only Girl in Town
Author: Ally Condie
Genre(s): Contemporary, YA
Pages: 336
Source: Own
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

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I had the chance to attend the book launch for THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN. Ally Condie is such a sweet, down-to-earth person. Hearing what she had to say about THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN made me want to read it right away. I chose to listen to the audiobook. The narrator was fantastic and had a lot of emotion in her voice. The short chapters and pacing almost gave the book an “in verse” feel. Sometimes hearing “chapter …” several times in less than five minutes took me out of the story.

As always, Ally’s writing is a joy to read. She has such a poetic and lyrical way of expressing what she wants to write. I was very surprised by the actual story. I have trouble choosing a genre because of that. THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Despite my surprise, I soon found myself all in as I experienced July’s story and her effort to figure out what was going on around her. THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN is immersive and a beautiful take on how depression, loneliness, disappointment, and the inevitable changes in our relationships can affect our thinking and choices.


Mini Reviews #1Title: Meet Me at the Lake
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 3.5 Flames

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I adored Carley Fortune’s debut novel EVERY SUMMER AFTER so I was super excited to read MEET ME AT THE LAKE. As with most of the books I read this year, I read the audiobook and I liked the narrator a lot.

As far as the story goes, I wasn’t disappointed. I loved Fern and Will’s story. I loved the premise of them getting a second chance at love. Even though MEET ME AT THE LAKE is mostly fluff, there’s some meat to the story too thanks to the inclusion of how mental illness and the loss of a loved one can mess with our plans and intentions. It made the characters and story feel more real.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Christmas Murder Game
Author: Alexandra Benedict
Genre(s): Holiday, Mystery
Pages: 325
Source: Borrowed
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0.5 Flames

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I read THE CHRISTMAS MURDER GAME for book club. I thought the concept of THE CHRISTMAS MURDER GAME sounded fun and suspenseful. While I was never bored, I just didn’t think the execution was done very well and the writing was very clunky. I thought Benedict tried way too hard trying to think up the anagrams. Fortunately, listening to the audiobook helped hide the weird spellings.

As far as the story goes, I knew who the main antagonist was pretty early on. I didn’t mind Lily but I thought some of her choices were a little suspect. Every other character was either annoying, selfish, or not developed very well. The circumstances that had to happen so the story could take place weren’t very realistic either.

Review: The Good SisterTitle: The Good Sister
Author: Sally Hepworth
Genre(s): Romance, Thriller
Pages: 309
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 2 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights, and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be ... dangerous.

My Thoughts

I was really excited to read THE GOOD SISTER because my IRL friend Jenny recommended it to our book club and I usually enjoy the same type of thrillers she does. We decided to read it as September’s book and I’m glad we did so I’d read it sooner rather than later.

I loved THE GOOD SISTER. It was a fantastic story that kept me reading until I was done with the book. I saw the big twist coming a mile away; it didn’t ruin the suspense or story for me, though, because I still wanted to know how everything would play out. I wasn’t disappointed.

I really liked the characters in THE GOOD SISTER. I liked that even though I guessed the twist, I still kept wondering if I was right. I also loved that a couple of the main characters were neurodivergent. I have sensory issues, not to the extent Fern does, though. I really connected with that aspect of Fern’s character.

Angry is just a pen name for sad…. In my experience, nine times out of ten if you are kind to the angry person, you will calm them down and find out what is really going on with them.

I would’ve given THE GOOD SISTER 4 stars, except near the end Hepworth perpetuated the stigma that people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are violent psychopaths. BPD’s misunderstood even among the psychological community. Those trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) understand BPD the most. I simply wish she had talked to a DBT-trained psychologist or someone who’s diagnosed with BPD before she used BPD as one of the reasons why the antagonist did what they did.

I don’t think cancelling someone is the right answer, though, because it takes away from what’s important—educating as many people as possible to help break the stigma surrounding BPD and other mental illness. Because of this, I’ll continue to read and, most likely, enjoy Hepworth’s novels.

Have you read THE GOOD SISTER? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for sexual assault, loss of a child, and loss of a parent.

There are spoilers for THE LAST BATTLE in this post.

Narniathon: The Last Battle

THE LAST BATTLE is the final book in the Narniad (in both published and chronological order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 a little over a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE LAST BATTLE back in 2007, I hated it. I gave it only one star. I’ve stated in previous discussion posts that the main reason I decided to participate in the Narniathon was because I wanted to see if my feelings for THE LAST BATTLE changed upon rereading it.

As I reread THE LAST BATTLE, I tried to keep an open mind. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed it much more this time around. I do still have a couple of problems with it, though. The first problem is with some of the allegory and the second is the same problematic language regarding the Calormenes that I noticed in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY.

I didn’t have a problem with all of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE. In fact, I truly enjoyed the allusion to Moses and the staff with the serpent on it as the characters saw or didn’t see what was really past the door in the stable. I also loved the allusions to the second coming of Christ and what’s written in Revelations regarding the wars, false Christs, and the coming of the Beast. The way Lewis tied them all together as a coherent story was phenomenal.

The part of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE I had a problem with is regarding Susan and Puzzle. I still don’t agree with how Lewis treated Susan nor do I think that she shouldn’t be “redeemed” when Puzzle, who imitated Aslan, was. I know Puzzle was tricked by Shift. However, before Puzzle agreed to go along with Shift, Puzzle actually said that he knew it was wrong to impersonate Aslan. To me, this means he went along willingly. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Puzzle was “redeemed;” I just think if he was, then Susan should’ve been as well as she only liked nylons, lipstick, and invitations more than Narnia.

By mixing a little truth with it they made their lie far stronger.

I thought the problematic language of the Calormenes in THE LAST BATTLE was far worse than what I read in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. Every time the dwarfs called a Calormene “Darkie,” I cringed. As I stated in my discussion post for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY, I try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. I also think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. Because of this language, though, I didn’t enjoy THE LAST BATTLE nearly as much as I could have.

I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of the Narniathon. I’m glad I decided to participate in it. I have a new found appreciation for the Narniad. Thanks, Chris, for hosting!

Have you read THE LAST BATTLE? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY in this post.

Narniathon: The Horse and His Boy

THE HORSE AND HIS BOY is the fifth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 on April 30. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY 14 years ago, I really loved this installment of the Narniad. During my reread, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first time I read it. I also feel like I don’t have as much to say about this book in general so I’ll focus on answering Chris’ questions instead of pointing out my own observations.

  1. THE HORSE AND HIS BOY has a distinctive ARABIAN NIGHTS feel which some have found problematic. Has this aspect, and its cultural or racial resonances, been an issue for you or not?

I did notice the problematic language and descriptions of the Calormen. I’m sure many readers pictured characters that look Arabic or Muslim in appearance because of Lewis’ descriptions. He may have, as Chris suggests in his post (link above) drawn inspiration directly from ARABIAN NIGHTS, which feels like cultural misappropriation.

While I think a book written like this today would be extremely inappropriate, I do try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. Yes, racism and cultural misappropriation was just as wrong in CS Lewis’ time as it is now. And, I think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. It’s the same reasoning I don’t think we should throw out Mark Twain’s books either. One of my least favorite books illustrates this principle perfectly:

Colored people don’t like LITTLE BLACK SAMBO. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.

FAHRENHEIT 451, Ray Bradbury

For this reason, just like I have done with Dune, I can acknowledge the cultural misappropriation for what it is AND help society do better by also supporting Muslim authors and authentic Muslim stories.

  1. Unlike the previous four titles, this book has the formerly young visitors to Narnia, the Pevensies, more as bit players than as protagonists. Have you found this a disappointment or did you happily adjust to the new points-of-view provided by Shasta, Aravis, and the others?

I was fine with reading the story from other POVs than the Pevensies. I’m not necessarily attached to them (maybe Lucy). I’m most attached to Aslan and some of the woodland creatures, like Reepicheep (too bad he’s only in like 20% of Narniad). If Aslan weren’t to show up, then I’d be disappointed.

  1. As a boy Lewis loved to imagine talking animals, and that love permeates all the chronicles, including here with Bree, Hwin and, of course, Aslan. How did you feel about the interplay between the young protagonists and their mounts? Did you spot the literary allusions? And how did you react to Rabadash’s punishment?

I really liked how Aslan shows up in this book. It’s one of the things I like about this book. It reminds me of what in Narnia, Christians may term as the “Holy Spirit.” I feel like Aslan manifests this way in Narnia often. Instead of simply telling the characters he’s there to guide them, he leads them through other means that they often don’t know about. He helps them very mysteriously. (See what I did there. )

I didn’t spot the literary allusions, I don’t think. I think this may be why I’m not sure how it relates to Rabadash’s punishment. As far as his punishment, it reminded me a bit of PINOCCHIO. Even without thinking of Pleasure Island, I thought his punishment was just.

To be quite honest, I’m not really looking forward to reading the last two books in the Narniad. They’re my least favorite of the seven books. Hopefully, I’ll feel differently this time around. I am trying to keep an open mind even if it’s not working very well. Anyway, THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW and the creation of Narnia is next.

Have you read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE SILVER CHAIR in this post.

Narniathon: The Silver Chair

THE SILVER CHAIR is the fourth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 I’m participating in on Thursday of last week. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

This is the only book in the Narniad that I remembered nothing from my previous read 14 years ago. Okay, I remembered that Eustace Scrubbs was one of the main characters, but that’s it. Other than that, I was basically reading this installment as if it were my first time again. I thought once I started rereading THE SILVER CHAIR, the story would come back to me–it didn’t.

I really liked THE SILVER CHAIR. It was a lot different than the previous three books, which I found kind of refreshing. I did get annoyed by the owls “tu-whoos” and Puddleglum’s negativity, but not enough to make me hate the story. There were also a couple of times I was frustrated because I understood what was happening a lot sooner than the characters did (e.g. Autumn feast, Rilian’s enchantment). I had to remind myself that these are children’s books so I wouldn’t get too mad, lol.

I thought the allegory was more subtle in THE SILVER CHAIR than in the previous installments of the Narniad until the end, anyway. Then the allegory is obvious when Aslan asks Eustace to pierce his paw with a thorn. Even though the imagery’s unmistakable, I thought how Lewis tied it in with Caspian’s death was beautiful. It’s my favorite ending so far in the series.

The more subtle parts of the allegory are the four signs that Aslan gives to Jill to follow so she and Eustace can find Prince Rilian. Aslan tells her to recite them when she wakes up in the morning and before she goes to sleep at night so she doesn’t forget them. Over on Chris’ blog, he commented:

I think Aslan’s insistence that Jill repeat the Four Signs rubric morning and night is deliberately redolent of saying prayers before and after sleep.

I agree that by having Jill recite the signs like Aslan asks, the signs are reminiscent of morning and nightly prayers. And, the fact that Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum don’t recognize the signs before they come upon them reminds me of the “signs of the times” that Christians look for as signals of Christ’s second coming. As a Christian, I’ve been brought up to believe the “signs of the times” can help me prepare and be ready for when Christ comes to reign again on the earth.

I also think, and I don’t think I’m alone, that there are many interpretations of the signs. Look at the book of Revelations, for example. Scholars and theologians can speculate what they think John the Revelator meant by what he wrote. And, I think we’re all going to be surprised as to what he meant by what he wrote when everything happens. (This is, of course, if you believe like I do that the book of Revelations is a book of things to come.)

I also thought of the signs in conjunction with following Christ’s commandments. Jill and Eustace do their best to follow the signs. They try to keep their minds from getting confused as Aslan warns. They, as Jill puts it, “muff it up” a few times. Aslan is gracious and forgiving and gives them many chances to follow the signs as Christ does with us. I believe as long as we’re trying to follow Christ and do good, He will give us as many chances as we need to follow Him and do as He asks.

I’m looking forward to reading THE HORSE AND HIS BOY this month. It’s one of my favorite installments in the Narniad.

Have you read THE SILVER CHAIR? Did you like it? Why? Why not?