Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Christmas at the Tittletons

Title: Christmas at the Tittletons

Series: None at the moment; rumors of a sequel in development *grins*

Year: 2013

Author: Joan Bassington-French

Summary: What started out as an enjoyable Christmastime house party at Sir John Tittleton's luxurious London home has turned into a veritable nightmare. A stranger has been found in the back alley, stabbed to death, and everyone in the house is a suspect. As Jessamine Warbling, a fashionable young lady, decides to give Scotland Yard a helping hand, she discovers that almost all of her friends had a motive to kill this man. But which one is the murderer, and is he, or she, desperate enough to strike again?

As Jessamine Warbling, Inspector Fionn, and the Tittletons dig into the case, they take a gruesome look at human nature and learn just how far a person will go to save his own skin. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Jessamine Warbling
~ Judith Tittleton
~ Sir John Tittleton
~ Inspector Fionn

Review: Christmas at the Tittletons has everything you'd want in a holiday murder mystery: intrigue, suspense, dead bodies, humor, family, etc. And written in a very Dickens-ish style. I cannot recommend this book enough! Everyone and everyone needs to read this book, whether you're looking for something to share aloud with your family, or just a marvelous read to snuggle up with under the light of the Christmas tree.

Jessamine Warbling is your typical English young lady; she's elegant, sophisticated, but unfortunately suffers from an overly curious imagination. When she's invited to her best friend's house for Christmas, along with her friend's large family, their servants, and a friend or two, Jessamine thinks it's shaping up to be the perfect holiday. But that's before they awake Christmas morning to a dead body in their midst. And everyone in the house is a suspect. Joan Bassington-French writes in an older English style that is really fun to read, and the gripping suspense of the story will keep you reading until the end. 

This novel was based on a murder mystery play that I had the great privilege of participating in, and even though I knew the outcome from the play, I found that when the author compiled into a novel form and handed it over for me to read, I was hooked. Judith Tittleton is definitely my favorite character (for no specific reason whatsoever), and the rest of the cast is perfectly balanced to the era of the story. If you're a fan of Dickens, mystery, or just excellent books in general, you have to read this book. Believe me. You won't regret it. I daresay you'll love it as much as I.

Advisory: As this is a murder mystery, Jessamine does into contact with dead bodies and a little violence, yet nothing is portrayed in a graphic tone. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Christmas at the Tittletons on Amazon!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Title: The Lightning Thief

Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Year: 2005

Author: Rick Riordan

Summary: Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters: 
Percy Jackson
Annabeth Chase
Grover Underwood
Luke Castellan

Review: A cousin recommended this series, and although my Percy Jackson experience began with the 2010 film, I followed it up with reading the whole series, and it was, overall, a surprisingly pleasant experience. Even though The Lightning Thief is over 300 pages long, it's very fun read. Percy is a humorous narrator, and the chapter headings kept a smile on my face the whole time I was reading (i.e. I Ruin a Perfectly Good Bus and We Get Advice from a Poodle). The quips and comments are well-placed and balance the more serious side of the novel very nicely. The action is fast-paced, and you can never stop for a moment to be bored; Percy and his friends won't allow that. And while the end is satisfactory, it leads right up to the second book, Sea of Monsters

There's a great deal of Greek mythology popping up in The Lightning Thief. Within the first few pages, Percy discovers that his father is a Greek god of Olympus, and he himself is accused of stealing Zeus' master lightning bolt. He meets centaurs, satyrs, and other creatures of myth, and journeys to places that he thought only existed in legend. The way Rick Riordan weaves the myths and legends into the story is interesting to see; Greek mythology comes to life, and while I came away from the book knowing more about the Greek gods and legends, I never once got the feeling that I was reading a history book. I've always been interested in Greek history, so in that aspect, this book was two thumbs up! 

Advisory: The biggest issue I have with the Percy Jackson series is that the main theme throughout the series is the Greek gods having kids with humans. The demigods are the main characters, and it is their quests that make up all the books. There is a little bit of language, as some people swear by the gods of Olympus. Percy encounters some creepy characters and battles several of them, but the level of violence and "gore" is just what you'd expect for this book. I'd recommend this for 12 years old and up.

As a Christian, I must point out that this story, while entertaining, is just that: entertainment. The characters in The Lightning Thief see the mythological gods of Olympus as the rulers over the world; Zeus is lord of the skies, Poseidon the lord of the waters, etc. rather than giving the one true God the credit due Him and His name.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy The Lightning Thief on Amazon!

Friday, February 14, 2014


Title: Ransomed

Series: None

Year: 2013

Author: Elizabeth Ender

Summary: Both of them have promised to protect me. My lord in not here. The stranger is. One said I would die if I left; the other says I cannot live unless I go... and to go with one means to forsake the other. Do I stay or do I go? This is my choice. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
The narrator
The lord's son
The lord
The master

Review: A mere 54 pages long, Ransomed appears to be a book that can be quickly read, enjoyed, and set aside, yet it is much more than that. It is an allegorical tale of a young girl who is forced to choose between two masters, just as we are forced to choose between two of our own: God or evil. The parallel that Elizabeth Ender draws is clearly and cleverly put, and you cannot walk away from this book without seeing it. While the story itself is enjoyable, the characters memorable, and the plot thought-provoking, the allegory (if such a story can be called that) is strong, and truly is a beautiful picture of love. 

This story touched me personally in a way that not many stories do. The day I received this book in the mail was a horrible day; I woke up sick with a large to-do list staring me in the face, and to top that off, I was incredibly dizzy and fell down the stairs. Trying to work in pain was awful, and I was downright miserable thinking about it all. I picked up Ransomed in an effort to distract myself and ended up feeling sharply scolded instead. Here was the tale speaking of Christ's selfless sacrifice and the horrible suffering He went through... and all for me. How could I complain about my own petty state when reminded of such love? I can't even begin to recommend this book highly enough; if you have not read it, you need to, and that's all I can say.

Advisory: The narrating girl talks about some of the tortures that the enslaved characters go through (nothing terribly graphic), and there is a small amount of violence in a sword fight. While older readers might feel more targeted towards this book, Ransomed is a tale of truth for all ages.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Ransomed on Amazon!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Year: 2001

Production Company: New Line Cinema

Summary: When the One Ring falls into the hands of a small hobbit, Frodo, he must set off from the comforts of the Shire to journey on a dangerous mission with his good friend (and gardener), Sam, to destroy the Ring before Sauron, evil ruler of Mordor, discovers its existence.

Main Characters:
~ Frodo Baggins
~ Samwise Gamgee
~ Gandalf the Gray
~ Aragorn
~ Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry)
~ Peregrin Took (Pippin)
~ Gimli, Son of Gloin
~ Legolas Greenleaf
~ Boromir

Characters: An excellent cast!

Plot: Not so true to the book as we would have liked, but still very impressive!

Music: This score was written perfectly for the film! Flowing up and down with each change of scene, it really set the mood for every scenario in the film.

Scenery:  Most of the scenes were dark, but you could tell how skillfully crafted they were. The Shire was beautiful and so rich in colors that you couldn't help but love it, and Rivendell and Lothlorien were simply breathtaking with the intricate details!

Advisory: Many dark themes, fighting sequences, and frightening images (i.e. several scenes with the Ringwriaths, one disturbing scene involving orcs being dug up under the tower of Orthanc, a part with a giant sea monster (the Watcher) at the gate of Moria, a battle with a cave troll in the mines of Moria, and a Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-Dum).

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Pictures from the movie:

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder

Title: Cinder

Series: The Lunar Chronicles

Year: 2012

Author: Marissa Meyer

Summary: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
Linh Cinder
Prince Kaito
Linh Peony
Linh Adri
Dr. Dmitri Erland

Review: When I first heard of this book, my reaction was pretty much summed up in one word: Really? Cinderella as a cyborg? Some space-y story set years into the future? Science fiction had never been a favorite genre of mine, and this book seemed too out-there for me to bother with it. However, friends of mine read Cinder and I found their reviews favorable, so I'd thought I'd give it a try.

First off, Marissa Meyer writes in a easy-to-read style, and while that's usually not a favorite of mine, it helped to keep the action flowing along and suck the reader into the plot. I was able to predict a lot of the stuff that happened, yet there was still a great deal of suspense and mystery that made me unable to put the book down. The familiar tale of Cinderella was excellently woven into the plot, beginning with a feeling of redundancy but ending with unique twists, and the science fiction aspect added nicely to the story. For me, it was like reading fairy tales mixed with Star Wars. The well-formed characters, mystery, and action were all a plus, in my opinion.

Cinder was a very nice heroine, and you can't help but sympathize with her struggles. She shares a good relationship with a android named Iko (who may or may not have a faulty personality chip - rather humorous) and her younger stepsister Peony. Her stepmother and elder stepsister act just as you would expect, yet they were mild villains compared to the lunar queen. Prince Kai, the young son of the deathly ill emperor, I found to be a slightly naive royal, but in his position, that's exactly what you'd expect. 

There is what one might call a "magical" aspect about this story, but in truth it's simply natural talent. The people of the moon (known as lunars) have the ability to push thoughts and ideas into others' minds. They use this ability to manipulate circumstances and people to get what they want, sometimes for evil purposes. Mirrors, however, cannot be manipulated, so the lunar people bear a hatred for reflective objects. 

I will warn you: this story is vastly different from most fairy tale retellings as it does not have a happily ever after; it is the first in a series. The ending is a smash-bang cliffhanger, leaving you wanting the second novel desperately. The second, Scarlet, is a retelling of Red Riding Hood, which leads up to the third, Cress, a Rapunzel retelling, and the fourth and last installment of this series is expected to be published in 2015 - Winter, based on Snow White.

Advisory: Seeing as this is a futuristic novel, there is a lot of action as well as some blood, though not too terribly graphic. A few times Cinder and other characters use swear words - very disappointing - and there is some light romance leading to a kiss. Also, there are what I'd dub "adult comments" in the book that brush against some touchy issues, and while they don't go into any detailed descriptions, it was a letdown to see them in the book as the story would have been just fine, as well as a lot cleaner, without them there. For all of that, I'd recommend this book to readers over 14 years old.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Cinder on Amazon!