"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader." ~ Paulo Coelho

Monday, April 19, 2021

Book Reviews Featuring a Colorful Castle, Fairy Tale Crocodiles, & a Lionhearted Math Genius, oh my!

 Hello book lovers!

I hope that you are all having a nice Monday! I’m continuing my goal of reviewing books as well as movies each month with bringing you three more reviews. Here’s what I did in January, February, and March. Since my last review post was such a hit, I’m following the same format! I’m still terrible at coming up with titles so you’ll have to tell me how well I did on this one.

While it’s been a while since I read two of these books, the third is fresh in my mind. Never fear, I took notes and remember enough to supply you with anything you would need to know.

Without further ago, onto the reviews!

My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. All three of these reviews are absolutely spoiler free!

Review #1:

The Blue Castle - by L. M. Montgomery:
Valancy Sterling has lived 29 years in a grey world when she gets a shock in the form. She’s not been feeling well which turns out to be a heart condition and the chances for her living out a year are unlikely. With determination she decides that she’s going to stop bowing to everyone else’s needs and make her own way in the world. Goodbye to her family who are always using her, goodbye to a colorless existence, and hello to life and experiences while she can have them. It might be hard, but she’s willing to make it work. What surprises away for her to take advantage of will she is living in this radiant new life?
“I’m sick of the fragrance of dead things.”
Genres: Classic, Fiction, Drama, Historical Fiction.
Characters: 8. We have quite an assortment! I love the little obsessive quirks of Valancy’s family that make them so laughable.
My favorites:
Cissy: Oh my goodness, I loved her. She was just a sweetheart who had gone through some dark times yet has such an air of goodness about her.
Abel: He was so well depicted that I just really liked him! I loved his relationships with people and how he processes his feelings is very realistic.
Barney: There is so much mystery around him that I’m going to keep it that way and not say anything.
Valancy: I’m talking about her last because I have a lot to say. I’m sure she was quite a breakthrough when this book came out! Valancy knows what she wants and goes to get it without ducking to anyone. She is very determined, adventurous, and brave. Quite admirable! On the other hand, something rubs me wrong about her behavior at times. I support her in so many ways, but in others she seems a little mean. Independence and spite are not the same thing. I fully support her going out into the world and living, but she just seems unnecessarily rude occasionally. I feel like there could be a better balance between what she claims to have been her whole life and her new attitude. I don’t deny that her family are all horrible and condescending! It was about time that someone told them off for that because that is not how you treat a human being! Her nickname they gave her is horrid. Who would change a glorious name like Valancy?? Telling Valancy that she isn’t good and is weak when they are all TERRIFIC examples. NOT.  I get all of that! Like in this occasion:
‘“I think,” said Mrs. Frederick, “that if a person makes up her mind NOT to have colds she will not HAVE colds.”
So that was the trouble. It was all Valancy’s own fault.’
Poor Valancy! I have been in a situation like this and it is awful to have someone tell you that.
The thing is, I really related to Valancy in the beginning. My family is great, but all of her feelings are so similar to mine, and while I like her character, I don’t want to be like her. If that makes any sense (if it doesn’t then know that it doesn’t make sense to me either). I absolutely 100% get the attitude (I understand it WAY too deeply) that if people are only going to understand you in that way you might as well do that. Like this:
‘People who wanted to be alone, so Mrs. Frederick Sterling and Cousin Stickler believed, could only want to be alone for some sinister purpose.’
Those two are obviously not introverts. They assume that Valancy is thinking mean things about them so she finally breaks one day and goes ahead and says anything that comes into her head. This part hit me really deeply:
‘She had always been told, ever since she could remember, that she must hide her feelings. “It is not ladylike to have feelings,” Cousin Stickles had once told her disapprovingly. Well, she would hide them with a vengeance.’
Do you see how terrible Cousin Stickles is? Why would you tell that to someone! I relate to her repressing her feelings for so long that all at once they come out and are all over the place. While it was right in her case, I don’t encourage other people to lash out at their families.
Overall, I think that she is a very fascinating character I don’t understand yet. I want to read this again and again to understand more what’s going on in her head.
Words/Writing style: 10. I have two examples for this. There is some mild swearing but it is made fun of. I thought it was really funny where in exasperation Valancy suggesed to Uncle Benjamin that he might say a swear word to feel better and he replied, “I can express my feelings without blasphemy.” He is the one who was usually saying the d word which is why it is hilarious.
But, MC, if there are a few words then why did you give it a 10 instead of a 9? Well, this book has THE MOST GORGEOUS WRITING I’VE SEEN IN MY LIFE. I’m not kidding. Before reading this book I would always say that I don’t care about the writing style and just wanted a story, but this proved that writing can be amazing. Read this:
‘The garden was lying in the magic of the warm, odorous July twilight. A few stars were out and the robins were calling through the velvety silences of the barrens.’
Quotability: 8. I haven’t had the chance to quote them to anybody, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about them a lot.
Content: 9. There are some scandalous things that happen! Oh dear! Not really! Valancy’s family thinks they are outrageous but it’s really nothing. Actually, the only things here are some drinking, a story of a girl having a baby without being married, talking about death, and someone being a little too friendly to a lady before he is stopped. I thought all of those things were handled really well so I don’t have a problem with any of it.
‘The only fault he found with her was that she did not sing at her word.
“Folks should always sing at their work,” he insisted. “Sounds cheerful-like.”
“Not always,” retorted Valancy. “Fancy a butcher singing at his work. Or an undertaker.”
Abel burst into his great brood laugh.’
Originality: 9. It is such a creative and cute story! I was just rereading one part of it now while looking for a line to put here and I couldn’t stop smiling. It follows one trope that is not my favorite, but other than that it is stellar.
Good For: Anyone looking for a new beginning in life, anyone looking for amazing writing, anyone who wants a pretty little story.
‘After the meal was over they would sit there and talk for hours---or sit and say nothing, in all the languages of the world...’
Age Range: One factor that I really love about this is Valancy’s age. She’s 29 so that gives it such a fresh and new take for a book! It’s not about your standard teenager, but at the same time anyone can enjoy this story. It would be fine for any and all ages.
Overall Score: 8.
Worth reading?: Yes! The writing makes me feel like I’m drinking sunshine. Totally worth it for that!
Will I read again?: This is a yes because I need to sort out my feelings on it. I go back and forth on what I think of it so I look forward to reading it again and again!
Bonus thoughts:
Basically everyone I know who has read this book loves it. If you came here expecting the same from me then I don’t know what to say to you: I don’t feel the same adoration that everyone else does. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it while reading it and the writing style is my go to example for spectacular writing, but thinking about it almost a year later I have some problems with it. It is super cute and lovely, but there is just one trope that I can’t stand. It had potential to be really inspiring, and while there are elements of that, it fell stale for me in a few places. A few things that were supposed to be surprising just felt thrown together. If you loved this then I am happy for you! I recommend it, but I’m still a little conflicted on my feelings in a few places.
“October—with a gorgeous pageant of color around Mistawis into which Valancy plunged her soul. Never had she imagined anything so splendid. A great, tinted peace. Blue, wind-winnowed skies. Sunlight sleeping in the glades of that fairyland. Long dreamy purple days paddling idly in their canoe along shores and up the rivers of crimson and gold. A sleepy, red hunter’s moon. Enchanted tempests that stripped the leaves from the trees and heaped them along the shores. Flying shadows of clouds. What had all the smug, opulent lands out front to compare with this?”

Review #2:

I, Coriander - by Sally Gardner:
Coriander has seven candles, just enough to last the night and tell her story. She had a happy and magical childhood with her parents. That was before objects came into her life: a stuffed crocodile, a pair of shoes, a set of pearls, and a mysterious raven. She didn’t know the significance of these objects at the time but now she does. Who is she truly and what was her story?
‘I wish I could unpick the stitches of time that have become all tangled and twisted together...”
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction.
Characters: 6. There were some that were monsters but they were the villains and not shown as good in any way. There were a few that I could get behind, but they didn’t really have memorable personalities that were cutting edge, you know?
My favorites:
Esther (at least, I think that was her name...): I love how she broke so many common tropes for people in her circumstances! The poor dear was so nice.
Gabriel: He was adorable! He was so caring and his relationship with Master Thankless was the best.
Master Thankless: From the beginning of when we meet him with the irony of his name I knew I would love him. His loyalty to his friends is so honorable and he is great all around.
Daines: It was good to see a solid character! She was so reasonable when no one else was.
Coriander’s father: While he makes a lot of mistakes he didn’t surprise me with being unpredictable.
‘A silent man can seem many things until he opens his mouth.’
Coriander: She is way more likable than a lot, but I still didn’t love her. It could be that the narrator of the audiobook (Juliet Stevenson) wasn’t my favorite, making Coriander really annoying. But, maybe that was the point because she matured a lot! There were some parts near the end where she really stepped into herself and I got a little misty-eyed.
Words/Writing style: 7. There were a few bad words and some that were just poorly chosen. I liked the first person present tense, but I was so frustrated by the whole “candle” thing because I wasn’t paying attention at the start of the book and missed that. I finally had to ask my sister what it meant because she had read the book before. Besides that it was a unique writing style.
‘I have learned that there is a great power in words, no matter how long or short they be.’
World building/Setting: 7. Part of the beginning is in England in 1643, so the era of Cromwell and Puritans and Charlatans. Combined with that is a magical world. That magical world was really cool! I just wanted to know more about that I didn’t like any of the times that we were in the real world, which was so grey and didn’t compare to the colorful masterpiece. Was that they point, to show such a contrast? I think so, but I didn’t appreciate it. Just give me my happy fairy land!
Quotability: 5. Not terribly quotable, but I there were lines worth writing down. This was my favorite:
“We are but shadows that have a short time dancing in the light.”
Awards: 2: British Book Award (2006) & Nestlé Smarties Book Prize for 9–11 years (2005).
Content: 6. Yikes. Where to start? There is murder, disgusting things, suggestive things (including names), and abuse. So much abuse. Involving starvation and physical and mental beatings for children and elderly. It’s shown as bad and evil, but it’s still horrible to read about! I had to stop a few times because I couldn’t stomach it. I’m not saying that Sally Gardener should’ve glossed it over. I don’t know what I’m saying, okay? It gets graphic. I was not expecting that, so maybe if I was more prepared I could’ve handled it better. I wasn’t in a good headspace to deal with that at the time, but I forced my way through which might have made matters worse.
Learning about the things that happened with the times of the Puritans always makes me really sad but grateful that I didn’t live back then. There are evil preachers and while I realize that was accurate to the time, I wish there were some religious characters to contrast that. Not everyone who loved God was bad! The best example was probably Esther. My sister says I’m being too picky and I probably am.
Originality: 9. This gets this high of a score because of one element that came back around and made me extremely happy. From the first chapter it was worked in and it seemed random but it was involved at just the right times.
Good For: People who like history and fantasy combined.
Age Range: If you can’t tell from my content section, I was very triggered at certain points. This is probably PG-13 but it really depends on the person. I wouldn’t have been fine with it until I am as old as I am (Am I fine actually? *nervous laughter*) but my sister was fine when she was younger and she read it. I would tentatively set 15.
Overall Score: 6.
Worth reading?: Yes, it was. I really liked the glimpses of the magically world that we got  to see and will now imagine my own stories using all of the amazing factors.
Will I read again?: Nope. I can spare my time for something better. I listened to an audiobook version while doing the dishes which was nice, but I don’t need to do again.
Bonus thoughts:
‘When I was small I used to hide under my mother’s petticoats and listen to friends and neighbors as they brought their ailments to her like posies of sorrows, to be made better by one of her remedies.’
I was intrigued by this because my sister told me it had lots of fairy tale elements. Awesome, right? Basically, this book took everything that I don’t like in a fairy tale and put it together. It was dark, random things happened because “MAGIC. It makes everything better”, romantic relationships that had no basis for being there, gruesome deaths. There was a lot of potential! People being turned into animals? Mysterious fairy court dynamics? Medler (can we get a whole story about him??)? Instead the whole story hung on some weak and poorly explained plot points. Things were thrown in there to be convenient and for surprises that made no sense. As Abbie Emmons always says, “A confused mind always says ‘no’.” I was confused for the whole time and I just wanted to yell, “Why? WHY? WHHHHHHHHY?”. I did more that want to do it, I actually did yell. If my sister wasn’t the one who recommended it and I knew she would have answers I wouldn’t have kept reading it. My first reaction when I finished it was to call her and ask, “Are you kidding me?”
Now, she liked it a lot, so some of you may, too! I don’t discourage reading this, I only want to let you know how I feel about it, too. I didn’t get the point of it, but I would love to talk about it to see if anyone else got something out of it.

Review #3:

The Lions of Little Rock - by Kristin Levine:
In Little Rock, Arkansas, Marlee goes to school like everyone else. She likes doing math, but there are things that she doesn’t enjoy like being social and trying to make friends with her crush J.T. between doing his homework. When she meets Liz everything changes. She’s always struggled with talking, but she finally can with Liz who is nice, understands her, and brings her math puzzles. But Liz is harboring an illegal secret. Marlee starts to see the injustice in her hometown and wonders, can she be as brave as the lions in the nearby zoo to stand up to it?
“Let’s start solving the world’s problems. One step at a time.”
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Characters: 9. We get a diverse group! Besides Sally who was your typical mean girl, everyone had such interesting motivations.
My favorites:
Marlee: I feel called out here, but I am basically Marlee in every single way possible. Like math? Check. Has trouble with talking to people? Double check. Seeing her journey was really motivating to me because if she could do something, than I can, too, right? I’m not scared of heights, but that’s the only difference between us.
‘He shook his head. “It’s always the quiet ones who are the craziest.” But he was grinning again, and I knew he was teasing.’
Liz: Marlee and Liz are such great friends because they are so different from her. Do I now want a friend like Liz? Yep, I do.
Little Jimmy: I don’t remember detail about him, but he was sweet!
J.T.: His character went somewhere I didn’t think it would go and it was a new take! I liked him a lot.
David: I want to hug Marlee’s big brother. He was great! Judy was nice, too, but I really liked David.
‘That night I lay in bed wondering how many other times David had grinned and fooled me, too, even though he’d felt awful inside. The idea that my big brother sometimes felt not good enough was strange, and a bit scary.’
Words/Writing style: 8. There is some name calling but it is shown as bad. It was super easy to read and I really liked the first person past tense. I am a sucker for first person. It puts you so nicely into the characters head!
Quotability: 8. I haven’t had the chance to quote it (seriously, MC, why is this such a big deal? I have no idea), but the lines are great.
‘Because all the words in the world won’t do much good if they’re just rattling around in your head.’
Awards: 3: Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award Nominee for Grades 6-8 (2014), Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award Nominee (2014), & New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award for Young Adult (2015).
Content: 9. This is talks about true stories of murder and the Ku Klux Klan. It all shows that racism is a terrible thing! It is handled so well. It also has vandalism and explosions which are both dealt with just as well.
Originality: 10. This is such a good setting for historical fiction! The characters are unique and have good fears and things to face. Between referencing true events and having experiences like riding in an airplane for the first time it makes you really believe that you are there in 1957.
Notes: It mentioned the book Heidi and I had just finished reading it the book before! It also briefly mentions the movies The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Dumbo (1941).
Good For: Everyone, anyone who loves math, anyone who wants a good book about racial justice, anyone who is afraid of using their voice.
Age Range: A great book for all ages! The main characters are in middle school so it is relatable to kids that age, but it also ties in important historical events that are good for anyone to know.
Overall Score: 9!
Worth reading?: Yes! It was perfect for me personally because of how much I relate to Marlee, but it was also valuable for an in depth look at the things that were going on at that time.
Will I read again?: I’m looking at my sister’s trusty copy (which I bought her, by the way) as I write this and am thinking it’s about time to read it again, so the answer is definitely yes.
Bonus thoughts:
“Maybe they’re tired of being seen as second best.”
Of all of the books that I’ve read today this is my favorite! I like it a lot and have no reason to write a long rant about it. Try it yourself!

Whew, I’m done! Another full day of writing reviews done. It looks like I’ll barely get this in on the 19th because of that. It’s better than what I did yesterday when I decided to ram my face into the sidewalk resulting in a swollen face (long story). How are all of you doing??

Thank you for reading! Have any of you read this books? Do any of them look interesting to you? What is your favorite writing style you’ve ever read? Has a book had potential but fallen short? Who are some book characters that you relate to? Good night!



  1. Great reviews! I adore The Blue Castle. I haven't read the others, but they look very interesting, so I may look into them.
    You smashed your face on the sidewalk? Are you okay? How did that happen?
    Oh, there are plenty of book characters that I can relate to. One is Anne from the Anne of Green Gables series. She's more talkative than I am (maybe. My family might disagree because I do talk a lot, just not all the time. I have to be in the mood for it), but, other than that, we are the same person.

    1. Thanks, McKayla! The Blue Castle always puts a smile on my face when I think about it. I think you would dig The Lions of Little Rock!
      Aww, thanks for asking! It was such a rookie move. I was riding bikes with my sister for the first time this year and went over a curb then crashed for no reason. I was super sore for a few days, but I'm all good now.
      *high five* Kindred spirit! Anne is such a relatable character!

  2. Ack I need to read The Blue Castle! I'll probably get around to it this summer.

    The Lions of Little Rock looks interesting, too. I need some more 1957 in my life.

    Hope your face feels better soon! :(

    1. Now when I'm finally replying to this you've already done both of those! When you set your mind to something you get it done. :D I'm thrilled that you loved both of them! I agree, I always need more history in my life, too.

      Thank you, Megan! My face is all back in working order. :D

  3. Lovely reviews! I found your thoughts on The Blue Castle especially interesting because I love it very, very much (It's my favorite LMM) but I've also thought about similar things while reading it...them treating her so badly doesn't justify all of her behavior. Although it's super cathartic, haha.

    I haven't heard of the other ones...but Lions of Little Rock sounds intriguing!

    I honestly find that the book character I relate most to is Mr. Darcy. XD XD Which says a lot about me, I think. Recently, though, I've also really related to El in "A Deadly Education". Which also says a lot about me, I think. xD

    1. Cathartic describes The Blue Castle to a T! Thank you for reading and understanding my small rant. XD I permanently like that book, but my thoughts on it vary greatly from day to day, so I need to be patient. :)

      The Lions of Little Rock was great, Sam! You should give it a go sometime!

      I love that! XD I was starting to not be as socially awkward as I used to be, but I'm sure that all of that progress will disappear, so Mr. Darcy is so relatable. El sounded like peak part of that book when you reviewed it!

  4. Loved The Blue Castle! Such a good book!! Need to read the other ones.

    1. The Blue Castle is whimsical and magical and all the good things!

  5. Lovely reviews! I read The Blue Castle last summer and enjoyed it quite a bit. Nice to have a older heroine as opposed to Anne, who I love as well.

    1. Hey, thanks, Anna! Valancy was such a highlight of the book! Her perspective was so fascinating because she is much older than the typical heroine. Anne is fabulous, of course, too!

  6. I haven't read the others but The Blue Castle is amazing!


To comment, or not to comment? That is the question. Whatever you decide, I would love to hear from you!! I am always open to suggestions, advice, and any other comments! Even if you don't agree with me, I would love to hear from you as long as you keep the comment respectful and on subject. And, please, no swearing. I love comments on old posts!!
My computer won't let me leave comments, so it might take a few days, but I will reply!

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, where you stop your story." -Orson Welles