Monday, October 1, 2018

September Monthly Recap




Books Read



Mere Christianity – 5/5

I started reading this book in April, and I finally finished it this month. I really enjoyed this book and wished it hadn't taken me so long to finish it. I have a hard time sometimes really getting into non-fiction books. I can enjoy them, but then if I set it down, I don't always feel a rush to finish it right away. Regardless, this was a really good book and I personally found it interesting how some of the points CS Lewis made are still relevant today.

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World – 5/5

On the flip-side, if I actually sit down and read some of a non-fiction book every day, I can finish it within a month. I really enjoyed this book, and Max Lucado offers some good advice for anxious Christians.


Not a lot happened in September. I was busy with work, so outside of reading and playing the new Spider-Man PS4 game, the only other thing accomplished was some writing.


October's Book of the Month


Darkest Fear



A surprise visit from an ex-girlfriend is unsettling enough. But Emily Downing’s news brings Myron to his knees. Her son Jeremy is dying and needs a bone marrow transplant from a donor who has vanished without a trace. Then comes the real shocker: Jeremy is Myron’s son, conceived the night before Emily’s wedding to another man. Myron is determined to help him. But finding the missing donor means cracking open a dark mystery that involves a broken family, a brutal kidnapping spree, and the FBI. And as doubts emerge about Jeremy’s true paternity, a child vanishes, igniting a chain reaction of heartbreaking truth and chilling revelation.

I feel like October needs to have a spooky book, and the most fitting genre for that would be horror. I don't read horror though, so we're going with a mystery thriller instead. I love Harlan Coben's books, especially the Myron Bolitar series. I've read a good chunk of the series, but there are still a few that I haven't had a chance to read yet and this is one of them.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Book of the Month: Hell in a Handbasket



They say the road to hell is paved in good intentions, and Rose Gardner can’t shake the notion she’s headed there in a handbasket. She feels responsible for the death of a woman she tried—and failed—to save with her visions, and though she intends to do the “right” thing and tell James Malcolm she can’t possibly accept his offer of a relationship, she hasn’t yet mustered the strength. Worst of all, her sister is terminally ill, and there isn’t a thing she can do to save her.

When a new case falls into Rose’s lap, she eagerly shifts her attention to someone else’s problems—except it’s Henryetta, and every person, and problem, is somehow connected. The case will bring her back into contact with James, whom she still hasn’t answered, and force her to confront her past in other unexpected ways.

Meanwhile, Rose and Neely Kate find themselves playing host to an unlikely house guest. Helping the stranger may require them to become more entangled with the crime world, something Rose knows she should avoid. She and Neely Kate have the very best of intentions, but are those intentions ushering them down a path they can’t easily leave?

My Rating: *****


Hell in a Handbasket is an enjoyable addition to the Rose Gardner series. The characters are entertaining and engaging, and the mystery was an interesting one that tied into the multiple plot points throughout the novel.

That being said, having read the previous Rose Gardner series, I feel like Denise Grover Swank is starting to retread ground when it comes to some of the relationships. I won't say much as to avoid spoilers for both series, but there is a character that I really liked in the last series, and I'm not a fan of how he's being portrayed now.

The character made mistakes by Rose, but it's hard for me to completely disagree with his motives. The town of Henryetta is corrupt and the criminal underground is really running things. Naturally, you would want to see that corruption stopped. That being said, I feel like the series is going to portray that as the wrong thing to do, since Rose is part of the crime world now and so is her current love interest. And it's hard for me to view it that way having seen both the bad and the “good” parts of the crime world of Henryetta in both series.

Maybe Denise Grover Swank will surprise me and not go the way it appears she's going to go with the story as of this novel. I really hope that will be the case.

Regardless, I do plan on reading the next book of the series when it comes out.



Monday, September 10, 2018

August Monthly Recap


Another month, another monthly recap. Someday I'll actually get these blog posts out on time.



Books Read


As Old as Time – 4.5/5

I didn't do a lot of reading in August. I'm hoping that will change with September and I'll get at least two books read.

Movies Watched


Christopher Robin

This movie was so good and adorable. I mean it's Winnie-the-Pooh, adorable was pretty much guaranteed. It was nice seeing a grown-up Christopher Robin revisiting his childhood and his friends from the Hundred Acre Woods. There were also some moments that provided some good laughs.

September's Book of the Month

Hell in a Handbasket


They say the road to hell is paved in good intentions, and Rose Gardner can’t shake the notion she’s headed there in a handbasket. She feels responsible for the death of a woman she tried—and failed—to save with her visions, and though she intends to do the “right” thing and tell James Malcolm she can’t possibly accept his offer of a relationship, she hasn’t yet mustered the strength. Worst of all, her sister is terminally ill, and there isn’t a thing she can do to save her.

When a new case falls into Rose’s lap, she eagerly shifts her attention to someone else’s problems—except it’s Henryetta, and every person, and problem, is somehow connected. The case will bring her back into contact with James, whom she still hasn’t answered, and force her to confront her past in other unexpected ways.

I'm taking a step back from YA fiction this month and moving on to a mystery instead. I'm also hoping to actually have my review up this month to have it really be a book of the month, instead of it happening the beginning of October like the past two books of the month. Fingers crossed.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Book of the Month: As Old as Time




What if Belle's mother cursed the Beast? When Belle touches the Beast's enchanted rose, memories flood through Belle's mind-memories of a mother she thought she would never see again. And, stranger still, she sees that her beautiful mother is none other than the enchantress who cursed the castle and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast will have to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is 21 years in the making.

My Rating: ***** (close to 4 1/2)


Beauty and the Beast is one of my absolute favorite Disney movies (the animated version, not the live action). So naturally, out of the Disney Twisted Tales books I bought, this was the one I was the most interested in.

One thing I have to say is that this book is different than the Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty retellings in that this book actually goes through the entire movie with it's rewrite. It's different from the beginning since we actually get the story of how Maurice met Belle's mom. The book is split into multiple parts, and during part one we go back and forth between the past with Maurice and the Enchantress, and the present with Belle.

The characters are pretty much the same. Belle is Belle, the Beast is the Beast. We still have Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, Gaston, LeFou, etc. There are some new characters as well, though these are primarily featured in Maurice's past.

The story was interesting, especially with Belle and Beast attempting to figure out what happened in the past that caused the curse and what they could do to break it. The true villain is a dark, deranged individual (and slight spoiler, it's not Gaston in this version).

I do have to say that while I did enjoy this book, the ending was a bit flat. I'm a fan of happy endings, and while this book technically did have a happy ending, it didn't feel complete. And that's primarily because of the curse. I'm trying to avoid spoilers with this, but it doesn't feel like the curse was really able to be broken and as such, it doesn't have a good emotional impact. When Belle breaks Beast's curse in the animated movie, it's such a great moment. Here it's just there, and it doesn't even feel like the curse was actually broken.

Also, can I just complain that poor Beast never actually gets a name. Can we please give the guy a name? I mean I get that he's a Beast, but he had a name once too. Also, the “I'm not the same person I was back then” isn't a good excuse for him not to use it. He was a kid! Just because he was a bit of a brat doesn't mean he loses the right to use his name ever again.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I feel like the Twisted Tales books get better as the series goes along, and I plan on reading the new one that focuses on The Little Mermaid in the future.

Friday, August 10, 2018

July Monthly Recap


Well, it's August, so it's time for a new monthly recap. I technically should have had this up last week, but better late than never.




Books Read



Once Upon a Dream: A Twisted Tale – 3.5/5 stars

This book was enjoyable just like A Whole New World, but I didn't care for it quite as much. To be fair, Sleeping Beauty isn't really one of my favorite Disney movies and Aurora isn't a favorite Disney Princess of mine. I do have to say that I did really enjoy her characterization in this book though. She really had a chance to grow and come into her own, something she didn't get to do in the movie. Phillip got a little bit of character growth as well, but he still felt kind of flat. I do have to say, that I think the author of these books enjoys killing characters.


Movies Watched


Ant-Man and the Wasp

Marvel movies are my favorite movies, and this one is no exception. I really enjoyed the first Ant-Man movie and this one was just as good as the first in my opinion. It was a great adventure with some good laughs along the way. That mid-credit scene though… Marvel, you're killing me here.


Travels


I enjoyed a nice week at the beach with one of my best friends in July. It's always nice relaxing by the ocean, especially when you get to see dolphins swimming by. I also had fun shopping and playing mini-golf. Got to say that I'm not the best at mini-golf, though I was able to get one hole-in-one.


August's Book of the Month


As Old As Time: A Twisted Tale



What if Belle's mother cursed the Beast? When Belle touches the Beast's enchanted rose, memories flood through Belle's mind-memories of a mother she thought she would never see again. And, stranger still, she sees that her beautiful mother is none other than the enchantress who cursed the castle and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast will have to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is 21 years in the making.

I had meant to get this book read and finished in July, but it didn't happen, so I've decided to just go ahead and do it for my monthly book review. This was the Twisted Tale book that I thought sounded the most interesting. Beauty and the Beast has been one of my favorite Disney movies for a long time, so I'm curious how this will actually measure up in the end.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Book of the Month: A Whole New World



What if Aladdin had never found the lamp? This first book in the A Twisted Tale line will explore a dark and daring version of Disney's Aladdin. When Jafar steals the Genie's lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish. To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war. What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

Rating: ****


I love Disney. I love fairytale retellings. So finding a retelling of one of Disney's movies had me intrigued.

This story goes over a few events from the movie before it diverges into the twisted tale aspect. Revisiting parts of the movie was nice, because it does give you a chance to get into the heads of Aladdin and Jasmine before everything goes bad for them. Because things obviously go bad when Jafar has the Genie under his control.

The characters were all enjoyable. Aladdin and Jasmine aren't too far off from their original Disney version, but they still go through some changes – Jasmine more so than Aladdin. Genie is pretty similar, but slightly more subdued in my opinion. Actually we learn a little bit more about his history in this book, which I found to be pretty interesting. Genie's past isn't something I'd thought much about before. Jafar is Jafar. There's really not much else to say there expect that he teeters on the edge of losing his mind on occasion and there are a few tidbits about his past as well. Abu, Rajah, and Carpet are all around too, though with smaller roles for the most part. There are also a few new characters from Aladdin's past, and they were a nice addition.

There was a notable absence in this book however. Jafar's sidekick, Iago, is mentioned a few times, but never actually makes an appearance. His absence is explained, but I found myself actually missing him. Part of me kind of wonders if the author kept him out of the story in an attempt at being more realistic. It sounds weird considering we have Genie, Carpet, and magic in this story, but the author does seem to be keeping things more grounded to an extent. Of the animal characters in the movie, Iago was pretty different than Abu and Rajah in the fact that he can verbally communicate more than a normal parrot. It might would be easier to keep him out of the story than trying to find a way to realistically explain it, but that's just speculation on my part.

Of negatives, I really only had two complaints. The first is the lack of interactions between Aladdin and Genie. In this story, Jasmine is the one who really befriends Genie and Aladdin has one or two meetings with them, only one of which where they actually talk. Aladdin thinks that the two of them could have been friends in another life, which we all know is true. Aladdin and Genie's friendship is one of my favorite things from the movie, and I found myself really disappointed that we couldn't have it in this book. My other complaint is the fate of a few characters. I won't say more than that, because it heads into spoiler territory.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable retelling of Disney's version of Aladdin. If you've ever wondered what it would have been like if Jafar had been the one to use the lamp first instead of Aladdin, I'd recommend this book.

Monday, July 2, 2018

June Monthly Recap


July is here and summer is in full swing, which means it's time to take a look back on June.


Books Read



I didn't do a lot of reading in June, something I'm hope to change in July. I have a lot of books on my TBR list, and I'm hoping to start making a dent in it.

Movies Watched


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

This movie was better than I thought it'd be. I enjoyed the first Jurassic World movie, but things I had heard about this one had made me a bit iffy on it. While it did have it's problems, it was still an enjoyable movie. Also, Blue is the best dinosaur and I wish she'd had more scenes in the movie.

The Incredibles 2

The Incredibles was one of my favorite Pixar movies growing up, and I have been so excited for it's sequel. And I have to say, it was worth the wait. It was so nice to see these characters again and to see the improvements in animation. Also, Jack-Jack was great, but I kind of pity his family. With all of the powers he has, he's going to be a handful as he grows up.

Travels


I had a nice time spending a few days in Pigeon Forge, TN in June. I had the opportunity to ride through Cades Cove, which is something I hadn't done in a long time. It's always nice seeing all of the scenery in that area. I also got to spend a day at Dollywood, which is always fun.

July's Book of the Month


A Whole New World: A Twisted Tale



What if Aladdin had never found the lamp?

When Jafar steals the Genie's lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish. To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.

What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

I stumbled across these Disney Twisted Tales books while looking in a bookstore in June and decided to buy the first three books in the series. I love just about everything Disney and I have to admit that the premise of these books sounds interesting. I plan on reading all three during July (while relaxing at the beach), but I decided that for my monthly book review I would stick with the first book in the series. The ratings on these books seem pretty mixed, so I'm curious to see whether or not I'll enjoy them.