BOOK REVIEW: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

77276Title: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 24 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 31, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace Murry shouts out an ancient rune meant to ward off the dark in desperation, a radiant creature appears. It is Gaudior, unicorn and time traveler. Charles Wallace and Gaudior must travel into the past on the winds of time to try to find a Might-Have-Been – a moment in the past when the entire course of events leading to the present can be changed, and the future of Earth – this small, swiftly tilting planet – saved.

This is the third book in the Time Quintet series.

My Past Reviews:

See my review of A Wrinkle in Time: Time Quintet Book 1 here.

See my review of A Wind in the Door: Time Quintet Book 2 here.

My Review: 9 years has passed since the last book. Meg and Calvin are married and expecting their first child. Charles Wallace is now 15, and Mr. Murry still gets calls from the President. On this particular evening, the call he received warns of an imminent nuclear war started by Madog Branzillo. In order to save the world, a time traveling unicorn and Charles Wallace (aided by Meg through Kything) must go into the bodies of the ancestors of Branzillo to change the course of history.

I found this book to be really interesting, as it chronicles the history of a family through several hundred years. I do not want to give too much away, but it starts out with a man and his brother (Maddoc and Gwydyr) coming from Wales to America before even Christopher Columbus. There is a struggle between brothers, which Maddoc wins, and thereafter marries into an indian tribe, and that is where the history begins. Both lines flow with magic, but only Maddoc’s line are “good”, whereas the line of Gwydyr is portrayed as “evil”. The legends of the Indians and the magical myths of the Welsh are passed down through the generations — with each generation using a magical incantation to help them (which is in truth the Rune of St. Patrick).

The Offbeat Unicorn wrote a really good review / summary of the book and its themes. You can read the blog entry here. Frankly, this blogger wrote a better review of A Swiftly Tilting Planet than I ever could, so I urge you to click on the link.

In closing, I liked the book, and I hope that you will too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

18130Title: A Wind in the Door

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 5 hours 27 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 21, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 24, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi—those who hate—and restore brilliant harmony and joy to the rhythm of creation, the song of the universe.

This is the second book in the Time Quintet series.

My Past Review:

See my review of A Wrinkle in Time: Time Quintet Book 1 here.

My Review: I had never even heard of this book as a kid, and I had never read it before this month, so I was going head first into a dark tunnel without a flashlight.

I liked this book a little less than A Wrinkle in Time. This book was a little hard to follow, and I wasn’t really sure what the point of the story was. Essentially, only a small amount of time has passed between the event of the two books (even though the events of Wrinkle don’t even get an honorable mention), and Charles Wallace is deathly ill because of his mitochondria. While reading the book, I was like huh? How can someone get sick because of mitochondria? Isn’t that the DNA that you inherit from your mom?

Well, after finishing the book. I did a little research on the internet, and it turns out that mitochondria are basically the energy producers in the body’s cells — the batteries if you will. If they are not functioning properly, then the person can get really sick, and it is thought that certain diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s, bipolar disorder, etc. are all caused by mitochondrial dysfunction. Interesting, I guess, but kind of a weird (and complicated) subject for a children’s book. I don’t really remember knowing what DNA was when I was 8-12 years old –but maybe that is good — maybe it teaches children something about science in a fun way?

Anyway, Meg Murry, Calvin O’Keefe and their new friend Proginoskes must go within the body of Charles Wallace in order to save him from the Echthroi (who are basically evil beings), and to restore balance to the “universe” of Charles’ body.

I read some reviews that called this a “christian book”, but I honestly didn’t notice — which is good, because I really dislike being hit over the head with religious themes. So don’t let that description stop you if religious books also bother you.

In general this book has mixed reviews, which is kinda how I feel about it — but I made a promise to myself to finish all the books of this series, so upward and onward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

33574273._SX318_Title: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 6 hours 27 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 19, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 21, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

My Review: Although L’Engle wrote it back in the 1960’s, it wasn’t until October, 2017 (when I was in my 30’s), that I read the book for the first time. I never realized that this book had been written so long ago. There is also a movie adaptation of the book (it came out in 2018), but I have never seen it.

Before reading this book for the second time, I also never realized that there are 8 books in total in the series, plus some other books in a different series that ties into the Time Quintet series somehow. This book was originally written for children, but it also has some intriguing aspects for adults, and some interesting themes, especially given when it was written — for example:

  1. Women (and young girls) are given strong roles. The mother is a scientist, and Meg the main character is good at math and science. I wonder how well this was received in the 1960’s. I think that even in 2019, though, it is good to give little girls good role models.
  2. Meg exclaims at one part of the book: “Like and equal are not the same thing!” I thought about this concept for a few days afterward. I wasn’t sure if the author was making a commentary on civil rights or communism (or both).

I read some reviews that said that the book was a Christian book, which confuses me a little bit since there seems to be a lot of science fiction, fantasy and time travel for a religious novel. Maybe it was because L’Engle mentioned Jesus, like once (in context to fighting the evil entity IT?)

Although I probably did not enjoy this book as much as I would have if I were a child, it was still a fun (and quick) story to read and I would definitely recommend it as a weekend read.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

35887251Title: Pieces of Her

Author: Karin Slaughter

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 25 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Read Start Date: July 13, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 19, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Andrea Oliver’s mother, Laura, is the perfect small-town mum. Laura lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She’s a pillar of the community: a speech therapist, business owner and everybody’s friend. And she’s never kept a secret from anyone. Or so Andrea thinks.

When Andrea is caught in a random violent attack at a shopping mall, Laura intervenes and acts in a way that is unrecognisable to her daughter. It’s like Laura is a completely different person – and that’s because she was. Thirty years ago. Before Andrea. Before Belle Isle.

Laura is hailed as a hero for her actions at the mall but 24 hours later she is in hospital, shot by an intruder, who’s spent decades trying to track her down.

What is Andrea’s mother trying to hide? As elements of the past return and put them both in danger, Andrea is left to piece together Laura’s former identity and discover the truth – for better or worse – about her mother. Is the gentle, loving woman who raised her also a violent killer?

My Review: So I gave the book 4 stars because I really did like the overall story, but it wasn’t all good. So the book started off good, a shoot out at the diner, Laura saving the day, but then it started to go a little off track. Why was everyone so worried that Laura had committed “murder”? I don’t get it. They live in Georgia for crying out loud. Does anyone really think that a person would be arrested for murder when that person killed an armed gunman who had just shot up a diner? I think not.

But anyway, okay, so because Laura “murdered” the guy, Laura forces Andrea to move out, but before she can do that a guy breaks in and ties up Laura and starts torturing her. Andrea kills him with a frying pan to the head, which is again, “murder” WTF????? No it is not!! It is self defense of a 3rd person! So okay, ugh, Andrea has to leave town (instead of calling the police like normal people), which sparks the whole series of events. Like who is Laura chick, and why is this trying to kill her? Why can’t they call the police when some guy breaks in? Etc.

After these beginning scenes, the book starts shifting between 1986 and 2018. In 1986 we see the “pieces” of Laura, which essentially tells the backstory of the what/why  of the event transpiring in 2018. This part I found okay, except for a few things. Slaughter seems to repeat herself a lot. How many times did we need to hear that certain people cannot abide things? 5 times. I counted. What I cannot abide is repeating phrases! How many times did we need to hear that Laura was a “yo-yo”? Too many. I also found it irritating that the female characters were either portrayed as meak victims or crazy bitches.

Anyway, if you can get past the writing style issues mentioned above, then the story is actually a pretty good one. It had me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. It is fast paced, and I found myself getting into it, even though I had to roll my eyes several times, as mentioned above. I can’t really say anymore without giving the story away, so you will just have to read it and judge for yourself!

 

 

BOOK REVIEW:Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

29496076Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Author: David Grann

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 11 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Crime, True Crime, Mystery

Read Start Date: July 8, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 13, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

My Review: I had never heard of this story before, but I guess at some point I must have put it on hold at the library. I was really shocked to read what happened to the Native Americans at the early part of the 1900’s. The Osage Indians were put onto a reservation by the US government in Oklahoma. Luckily, or maybe unluckily, for the Osage people, their reservation was rich with oil deposits. The Osage themselves became rich, and of course, non-Native Americans became jealous.

Thus began another exploitation of the Native American.

This book was really good, but also really sad — another shameful event in a list of shameful events. I watch a lot of true crime shows, and read a lot of true crime novels, but it never ceases to amaze me how greedy people can be — how people would be willing to kill someone, or multiple people, over money. Don’t  get me wrong, I would prefer to have money than not have money, but I’m not about to take someone’s life to get it.

The writing (narrated by the author) was good, and although the subject matter was not dry, the author really brought the reader into the story, and made the story engaging.

If you are into history, this is definitely worth the time to read.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

39280445Title: Nine Perfect Strangers

Author: Liane Moriarty

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 28 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 2, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 8, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

My Review: At about 2/3 of the way in, I really liked this book. The characters are very interesting and well developed, and the overall storyline is captivating. During the time that the nine strangers are at the health resort and receiving “treatment”, we learn about their pasts and what secrets brought them to the resort for “healing”. We even learn about the history of the people running / owning the resort, which is just as sordid and interesting as the guests.

Now that I’ve finished the book, my opinion has not changed. I really liked this book! It was fun, easy to read, the characters were well developed and the pace of the book was on target. I also just in general really like Liane Moriarty as a writer.

I have read some pretty bad / mixed reviews of this book, but I don’t really understand them to be honest. A lot of people said that the changing perspectives (of the 9 guests and the 3 hotel staff) was confusing, which I did not find at all. I was able to keep everyone straight. The characters were unique enough that it was possible.

Other people said that the story did not have a theme or a purpose — not everything I read needs to have some preachy message, so if this is true, who cares! I usually read this book (audiobook) while bike riding, driving in the car, doing chores around the house, etc. Despite what other people said, I recommend this book!

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Rotters by Daniel Kraus

8572163Title: Rotters

Author: Daniel Kraus

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 18 mins

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Young Adult

Read Start Date: June 17, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Grave-robbing. What kind of monster would do such a thing? It’s true that Leonardo da Vinci did it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and the resurrection men of nineteenth-century Scotland practically made it an art. But none of this matters to Joey Crouch, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student living in Chicago with his single mom. For the most part, Joey’s life is about playing the trumpet and avoiding the daily humiliations of high school.

Everything changes when Joey’s mother dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with the father he has never known, a strange, solitary man with unimaginable secrets. At first, Joey’s father wants nothing to do with him, but once father and son come to terms with each other, Joey’s life takes a turn both macabre and exhilarating.

My Review: I had never heard of this book before, and I only started to read it because it was available as an audiobook from my library. From the subject matter, I wasn’t expecting it to be another young adult book (I seem to have read a lot lately), but after about 2 hours in, my first impressions are overall positive.

Essentially, Joey Crouch (nicknamed, of course, by the other kids as “crotch”) goes to live with his dad, the “garbage man” in a rural town of Iowa. Joey starts to be bullied because of his name, and his dad’s profession. At this point in the book, I really feel bad for him — but I am also a bit confused as to why he doesn’t seem to have any emotions about the tragic death of his mother. Her death doesn’t really seem to play into the story at all, except to give the reason / excuse for why Joey had to start living with his dad.

I am about 1/3 of the way through now, and my second impression is a little worse than the first. I am not sure why the author chose to have EVERYONE against the protagonist. He has conflict with his peers, his teachers, his father — there is not one good relationship. And yet, the author does not reflect this in the personality of Joey. Wouldn’t he be angry? Sad? Depressed? Overall, I am getting a lack of emotions from this book; like the characters are simply existing in the world, but not feeling anything. Even when the father takes him grave robbing for the first time, yes he gets physically sick, but there is still no emotion there. It’s only an action, and rather an inexplicable one, as the sickness comes on the morning after.

If I was supposed to feel sorry for Joey, I just didn’t. All of the emotions in this book were said, but not felt — if that makes any sense at all. It’s like, I can say I feel sad, but if I don’t act sad, who will believe me?

I wanted to like this book, I really did — but I just didn’t. It had glowing reviews on Goodreads, so I don’t know what I seem to be missing. The writing seemed to be decent enough, so maybe I will give Daniel Kraus another chance in the future.

 

 

 

TV SHOW REVIEW: Girls Incarcerated, Season 1

MV5BNzQ0MTA2YTgtNTE2YS00NDg2LTk0NDYtMWQ2MGYyNzEyYzgzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTMxODk2OTU@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_Title: Girls Incarcerated: Young and Locked Up

Year: 2018

Genre: Documentary

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: July 3, 2019 to July 5, 2019

Brief Summary of Plot from IMDb: A documentary show about troubled girls who are are juvenile delinquents in Madison Juvenile Center

Episode Name Episode # Date Watched
Chapter 1: The Girls of Madison 1 3-Jul-19
Chapter 2: Until We Meet Again 2 3-Jul-19
Chapter 3: Mean Girls 3 3-Jul-19
Chapter 4: Where the Story Begins 4 4-Jul-19
Chapter 5: Love in Lockup 5 4-Jul-19
Chapter 6: High Expectations 6 5-Jul-19
Chapter 7: My Life Story 7 5-Jul-19
Chapter 8: Moving Mountains 8 5-Jul-19

My Review: In the first episode we meet the girls of Madison, a juvenile detention center in Indiana. They are not sentenced to serve a particular time, but are rather sentenced to complete a program, which includes high school classes. Each girl is different, but seems to come from the same background: broken homes, addicted or incarcerated parents, no fathers, etc. Due to their abandonment issues, parents who aren’t around or on drugs, etc. these girls lash out in anger, because they are really hurting inside.

Some of these girls are actually really smart — they just have walked down the wrong path.

As I continued to watch the show, I started to feel really bad for these girls, and listening to the stories of physical, mental, and sexual abuse some of these girls have gone through in their short lives really broke my heart.

My sister lives in Indiana, about 30 minutes north of Indianapolis. I did not realize that Indianapolis was the 10th most dangerous city in the entire US. These girl had to grow up and survive in a really dangerous place, and often, when they are released, they go right back into their old environments.

This documentary is really well done and really brings another perspective to the life of being a juvenile delinquent. These girls do not do drugs, commit crimes, etc., because they like it, but they are doing it because they are deeply hurting and do not know how to handle their emotions, so they lash out and do destructive things.

If you are a fan of prison shows / documentaries, I would recommend this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Cabin Fever

225794-cabin-fever-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Cabin Fever 

Year: 2016

Genre: Horror

My Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Watch Time: 99 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: July 1, 2019

Recognized Actors: None

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdYOU CAN’T RUN FROM WHAT’S INSIDE. In this grisly remake of the 2002 horror hit, five college chums rent an isolated woodland cabin for a party. But their fun quickly ends when the group is exposed to a hideous flesh-eating virus, and survival becomes the name of the game.

My ReviewAfter the first 15 minutes: Like in the 2002 version, the beginning takes place at a gas station with some weird hillbillies. Already in the first few minutes, I could tell that this movie was going to worse than the 2002 version.

Overall impressions: Really stupid — but I guess that is to be expected from a B horror movie. Essentially, this is the exact same script as the first movie — not sure why? Super boring and unoriginal. The deputy is really ridiculous and has super stupid dialogue about partying. I don’t remember if this was also in the first film (probably was). Basically, this was a worse version of the original. There are similar scenes, but redone terribly. If you liked the first movie, I would doubt that you will like this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: The Golem

461856-the-golem-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: The Golem

Year: 2018

Genre: Horror

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Watch Time: 95 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: July 1, 2019

Recognized Actors: I did not recognize any of the actors.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdAN ANCIENT LEGEND REBORN. A re-imagining of the old mystical folklore that follows a woman and a tight-knit Jewish community that is besieged by foreign invaders. She conjures a dangerous creature to protect them but it may be more evil than she ever imagined.

My ReviewAfter the first 15 minutes: The movie opens with the story of the Golem, whereby a rabbi cannot control the monster and it ends up killing everyone. A young girl witnesses these events and runs from the temple. The movie then progresses into the future, to 1673 Lithuania where a couple (Hannah and Ben) is trying to conceive. It has been 7 years without any baby. They live in an isolated Jewish village, which is soon besieged by their Christian neighbors.

Overall impressions: This movie is full of themes of loss and regret — the couple I mentioned before lost their only son in a tragic accident. Hannah is severely depressed, and cannot imagine ever having a child again — she studies the Torah day and night to find a reason why God has taken their son from them. Que the Christian invaders, who blame the Jewish villagers for the plague. Their leader brings his dying daughter and threatens the villagers with death if she dies. The village healer takes the girl in an effort to heal here.

Amidst all this, Hannah awakens a Golem to save the town, but his awakening is a double edged sword which brings more than just salvation.

This movie is not scary, although a horror film. I read a lot of reviews of people who didn’t like this movie because the golem was a boy child instead of some gross, gigantic mud monster. For me though, the fact that the golem was a child, really tied into the loss of Hannah of her own child, and added to the movie.

I think that it is worth the watch.