Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Review: The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Published: January 8, 2015

Genre: Historical, Middle Grade

Hardcover Pages: 316

Synopsis: An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

Thoughts: You know what's funny? I always have this notion that I'm not going to like books set during World War II. I've read a few now, and every time I think oh here we go, yet another war story. While I often feel this way about movies as well, sometimes those feelings actually turn out to be true. BUT when it comes to the books I've read, you know what, the few that I've read recently have all been great.

The War that Saved My Life is no exception. I was drawn in immediately by Ada's story, and indeed I read this book faster than I've read most books recently, which is always an indicator to me how much I am enjoying something. I'm a bit of a sucker for protagonists that have a physical struggle in some way, so Ada was fitting into that mold right from the start. She's strong, yet very vulnerable, and has to deal with being thrust into a completely different world than she's used to right off the bat.

The book also represents a unique perspective during the war. So many movies tend to focus on soldiers and battles, while this book focuses on what the regular people back in England, and for most of the book here, the English countryside closest to France, were going through. Putting up blackout curtains, bombings, supplies going scarce. And, most of all, people not knowing what the best thing to do for their children - send them away, or stay home together and risk being bombed?

All of that being said, the real strength here is the relationships and the depth of the characters, in particular both Ada and Susan. Though Susan is seen through Ada's eyes, there are so many clues given about her, that the reader can deduct a great deal about her life without it explicitly being stated. Ada also being able to come into her own and stand up for herself was very satisfying. While the end did feel like it happened very quickly in comparison to the rest of the book, if I'm being honest, I think that was a good choice, as having to read a lot more of certain things wouldn't have been fun, especially when you intrinsically know that somehow things will probably come together.

If you like this book, I would also highly recommend Between Shades of Grey and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Both feature stories of strong young people during World War II struggling to survive. Very different stories, but both hooked me from the start.

Thanks for the recommendation on this one, Brittany! I probably wouldn't have known about it otherwise, as I don't always pay as close attention to middle grade fiction.

Rating: 4.5/5

What I'm Reading Next: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Supernatural 14x13 "Lebanon"

My friends, I think I got myself too hyped for this episode. I was honestly really looking forward to it, but I felt kinda let down. The structure of the episode was just a bit wonky, why did they need the whole beginning with those dumb kids? They could've cut straight to them with the pearl saying it's supposed to grant your deepest wish so it wasn't 20 minutes of filler in the beginning. It seemed like there was hardly any history there even though that's what it was supposed to be about.

Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester and Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural 14x13 "Lebanon"I don't know, maybe I'm crazy and over-analyzing. I'm sure a lot of people loved it. But okay let's get into the recap portion of things. As I mentioned, there's this whole beginning part where the guys are looking for this skull because another hunter who had it was killed and this dude took the skull and put it in his collection and... I mean, do you care? I don't care. The point is, they get a bunch of occult stuff in the Impala, then head into town (aka Lebanon), and the Impala gets stolen by a punk kid with all the stuff inside, they track it down, figure out there's a magical pearl in with the stuff.

So. Yes. They have the pearl. It grants wishes. Dean's like alrighty let's try it so I can get Michael out of my head. Well, he seems to get Michael out (though this is truthfully never fully addressed unless I completely spaced out), but he also, you know, brings his dad, John Winchester himself, there to the future. But a very specific version of the dad, from 2003, before all of the events of the show. Why would Dean want this particular version of John back? No idea. Not addressed. But he's here, and the boys tell him all about what has happened, and he's the most caring version of John we've ever seen from here on out. Not that John couldn't be caring, but you know what I mean.

Mary walks in and they're immediately kissing, and while they mack, Sam pulls Dean aside to rain on his parade about how messing with time travel is rarely a good idea. It will inevitably change things. Dean wants to ignore that, at least for now, and have a nice family dinner of Winchester Surprise that we've only heard about as of this season, but is now folklore of the family as if it were always a thing.

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as John Winchester in Supernatural 14x13 "Lebanon"While Dean and Sam head out to get the ingredients, they realize that things have already started to change. Since in this version of the timeline, John disappeared in 2003, Dean never ended up going to get Sam (I mean, really? The whole reason he went to get Sam in the first place in 2005 was because John was missing. Are we supposed to believe that Dean went and got him and because they never found John, Sam went back to school in this reality? IDK, guys, IDK.). So, Sam is now some tech goofus while Dean is still hunting and also wanted by the police for many beheadings.

So, while they're out and about, they see some bright lights that could only be from an angel declaring themselves to complete strangers because that's what they do in this timeline even though the only reason they got involved in the world's affairs before was because of the whole Winchesters being special thing, but I guess because time is being messed with, it's fine, whatever. Cool, bro.  Zachariah and Castiel, now back to a version of season four Castiel, are here and declare themselves and beat up the brothers, and Sam can kill Zachariah this time, and blah blah they banish Castiel with an angel symbol thingamabob and ok, let's go back to the bunker and tell everyone the bad news that dad has to go back to his timeline, because duh.

Now there are some father-son moments between both John and Sam and John and Dean, and everyone gets to be very touchy feely and talk about stuff. John is very proud of his boys, Sam is over his old resentment toward his dad, etc. They ponder whether changing things even further back in time would be better for them, but of course they're themselves and besides, we saw what that life could be like way back in season two in one of my actual favorite episodes of the series (that's What Is and What Should Never Be, for those who haven't figured it out already), albeit without John in the picture.

Anyway, they come together and bash the pearl, and John slowly disappears back to his time. All is back to normal, or as normal as it ever has been for this Winchester crew.

Random Thoughts:

- Like Sam would ever pick up a cursed object and almost pull the string on it. Puh-lease.

- Did I miss where they called themselves Campbell before? Are we just supposed to know they go by that name in town near the bunker?

- I'm sorry, I really wanted to like this episode, I really did. I was really thinking it would be the best episode of the season. Maybe my expectations were just too high.

- I do feel bad being mostly negative anymore; you'd think I was never a fan. But this was my favorite show back in the first five seasons. I went to the first Paley Fest panel for it back in season one, you guys. It just makes me sad.

Quotes:

Dean: They always talk too much.

Dean: This is like the best worst thing that could happen. 'Cause you love serial killers, but you hate clowns.
Sam: Yeah, Dean, I get it.

Dean: I Googled me as well. A lot of beheadings.

Zachariah: Come on, Constantine.
Castiel: I don't understand that reference.
Zachariah: You wouldn't.

Dean: Would we be better off? I don't know, maybe. But I gotta be honest, I don't know who that Dean Winchester is.

John: You two, you take care of each other.
Sam: We always do.

Previous Episode

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Book Review: Immortal Reign (Falling Kingdoms #6) by Morgan Rhodes

Immortal Reign (Falling Kingdoms #6) by Morgan Rhodes

Published: February 6, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

Hardcover Pages: 391

Synopsis: As two lethal elemental gods set out to destroy Mytica, sworn enemies must become allies in the final fight to save the kingdoms.

Jonas continues to willfully defy his destiny, but the consequences of plotting his own course are drastic. As the fight for Mytica rages on, he must decide just how much more he's willing to sacrifice.

Lucia knows there's something special about her daughter and she'll do anything to protect her, even if that means facing Kyan alone.

Amara is called back home to Kraeshia. Grandma Cortas has her own plans for Mytica's future. She promises Amara power, revenge, and dominance if she agrees to be part of her scheme.

Magnus and Cleo's love will be put to the ultimate test. Dark magic is causing widespread destruction throughout the kingdom. Enemies across the sea are advancing. And unrest is stirring throughout the land. Is their love strong enough to withstand the outside forces tearing them apart?

Thoughts: I know I said in my last review that I was going to review the fifth book in the Falling Kingdoms series, but here I am doing the sixth (and last). I just figured since I read the last two right in a row, I would simply post for this one and kind of discuss both of the last two, because honestly the story is so continuous that I wouldn't even know how to discuss the last two books separately now!

On the whole, I've quite enjoyed this series. I mean, obviously, or I wouldn't have continued reading it through until the end. Indeed, I gave up on another series that I was reading because the books started becoming so repetitive. This series probably peaked at book four; that was definitely my favorite of all of them. While a lot technically did happen in this book, it felt a bit rushed.

With a few spoilers here, I'll just say that there were a lot of easy ways out. Magnus has a special magic ring that keeps being helpful at all the right moments. Cleo is being taken over by this kindred thing, which felt like it was explored constantly, and yet not in very interesting ways? I'm not sure how to describe it! Not to mention they bring in Lucia's daughter as a plot device. There's something special about her, yet we never really see what it is? Okay.

On top of it all, the ending was very neat, very happy for every single main character. It was obvious that a certain romance was going to develop between a couple characters, but again it felt extremely rushed when it took Cleo and Magnus so very long to come together in the previous books.

So, while I did enjoy the series as a whole, I feel like this last book seemed a bit rushed and not quite as well-developed as the previous ones in the series. That said, I would read another series by the writer! If you enjoy fantasy romance-driven series, you may like it too.

Rating: 3/5

What I'm Reading Next: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Supernatural 14x12 "Prophet and Loss"

Legit question: do any of you care about the Nick storyline, like, at all? Because I could give two hoots. But fine, I'll talk about it really quick since this episode went into it. Nick escapes from police custody at the hospital where he's being kept and goes back to his house, where he talks to the ghost of his wife. She asks him to come back or whatever, and he's like no I choose Lucifer, wherever he may be. Bleep bloop.

Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester and Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural 14x12 "Prophet and Loss"Okay on to the main story at hand - Sam and Dean are heading toward the ocean, I guess, with the coffin capsule thingy that has a name, I'm sure, but it's not really important. Sam is not stoked about this trip, and even less so when Dean starts apologizing for not always being there for him when they were kids, like some kind of close to death confession tour. So he drums them up a case to take on while on their way.

The case involves a kid who has taken to killing people in very biblical ways, and carving enochian script into them after their deaths. They run his name by Castiel and figure out that he was to be the next prophet after Donatello, but he shouldn't have been called yet because Donatello is technically still alive, though in a coma.

They find the evil prophet dude just in time before he kills his next victim, and are like dude, you are not hearing GAHHG tell you what to do. He gets so distraught that when he manages to get Dean's gun off of him, he shoots himself in the noggin. Well, so much for that guy. But the bigger question is, why was he called up in the first place? They figure it must be because Donatello is in some in between place, not really alive, but not really dead, and so another prophet was called up, but not called up properly. But that just means it will happen again, unless they do something about ole Donny.

Misha Collins as Castiel in Supernatural 14x12 "Prophet and Loss"They meet Castiel at the care center where Donatello is in his coma, and they're all ready to pull the plug on the guy when the doctor mentions offhand that he's been saying some odd phrases. Luckily they have video of it, how nice, and they realize that he's been speaking enochian. Which I guess means he can be healed, because Castiel does just that, bringing him back from the brink of death.  But, lest we forget, Donatello still doesn't have a soul, so all is not completely right with the world.

After all of that is over, or as over as it can be, I guess, Sam drunkenly gives Dean a piece of his mind, basically telling him that they don't give up, and he can't understand why Dean would give up so easily. He even goes so far as to punch Dean in the face! My goodness, Sam! Dean eventually agrees to let everyone try as long as possible to find another way to fix things, but also tells Sam that if worse comes to worse, he will need to go in the box.

Random Thoughts:

- Am I the only one who didn't remember that Donatello was still alive?

- Next week's 300th episode, from what little I saw of the preview that always gets cut off by my DVR, looks like a lot of fun. It's the first episode in a while that I'm looking forward to, to be honest.

- The show was just renewed for a 15th season. Holy moly. I suppose I will face the dilemma once again whether to continue on with the recaps here or not.

- Can we be done with the Nick/Lucifer storyline once and for all?

Quotes:

Dean: I never said I wasn't scared.

Dean: I don't need to get shaky on this thing.
Sam: Wouldn't be the worst thing.

Sam: So if we could not have conversations that sound like deathbed apologies, I would really appreciate it.

Dean: Does the name Tony Alvarez mean anything to you?
Castiel: Yes.
Dean: Say more.

Dean: Thinking, highly overrated.

Castiel: This is the regular him but, he doesn't have a soul.
Dean: Well, nobody's perfect.

Previous Episode -- Next Episode

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Supernatural 14x11 "Damaged Goods"

It's been some time since we've caught up with the murderous Nick, so let's throw him into this episode, shall we? That's right, Nick is back, and he's tied up a demon to question it about where Mary Winchester is, because apparently the demons keep tabs on the whereabouts of the Winchesters? Why is he looking for Mary? Well, we'll get to that.

Mark Pellegrino as Nick and Briana Buckmaster as Donna in Supernatural 14x11 "Damaged Goods"Meanwhile, Dean is also on his way to see Mary. It's clear from the start of the episode that something is up with him after receiving the information from reaper Billie in last week's episode about the only way he can defeat Michael. He wants to go visit Mary, and he doesn't want Sam to go with him, which immediately raises everyone's red flags, but Sam goes along with it... for now. Mary also gets a bad feeling once Dean shows up, especially after Dean gets somewhat nostalgic (though come on, Dean is always the one who gets nostalgic out of everybody), and even moreso when she notices that he's doing something strange in the tool shed.

But hold up, I forgot Dean also had a brief chat with Donna earlier on in the episode. That's just to make sure we know he's near her, so when she shows up later, it's not a big surprise. Because once Nick makes it to town, guess who pulls him over? But she doesn't know who he is, only that he's driving a stolen van. He manages to get the drop on her and heads off to track down Mary.

Why does he want to track down Mary, one wonders? Because apparently she supposedly killed the demon that murdered his family. Only she didn't actually kill the demon, but rather trapped it in an enochian box. He forces her to take him to the box, which is in one of those storage facilities where they keep all kinds of creepy things. Around this time, Sam has shown up at the cabin to find Dean looking for his mom after getting a warning call from Donna.

Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester in Supernatural 14x11 "Damaged Goods"Nick pulls in some sap to be a vessel for the demon dude, and breaks open the box. Said demon Abraxis is very demon-y, but basically tells him that the reason he killed his family was because Lucifer told him to. Like, duh. What else were you thinking would be the case, Nick? Luckily, Sam and Dean show up in time to stop the demon from killing everyone, yada yada, fight fight, demon dies.

But, of course, the important bit is at the end of the episode when we find out what Dean has been building. As anyone with half a brain might have guessed, it's a box/coffin of sorts that has the power to detain and archangel. Sam is all like no way man, those aren't possible to build. But duh, Dean got the instructions from Billie, so that's that. Sam is, of course, against Dean's decision to lock himself, and therefore Michael, up in the box, but Dean is adamant that he'll do it with or without Sam's help, so Sam reluctantly agrees.

But, you guys, this is Supernatural, they'll find another way, or he'll be in the box for the summer and then they'll figure out what to do. That's the Winchester way.

Random Thoughts:

- Dang, I thought it was next week that was the special 300th episode, but it's two weeks. Darn it. That's the one episode I'm looking forward to!

- It seems like at least Michael will end up in the box somehow, but who knows.

- I enjoyed that this episode was pretty simple without any big monster thing to deal with, and instead focusing more on Dean's internal struggle.

Quotes:

Sam: Then, he hugged me.
Mary: That's sweet.
Sam: Mom, we don't hug.

Mary: It was so greasy, a heart attack on a plate.
Dean: A delicious heart attack on a plate. And I would like mine with extra cheese.

Nick: If you feel like screaming, you can go ahead. Because we're pretty...remote.

Dean: Now you can either let me do it alone, or you could help me. But I'm doing this.

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