Friday, August 7, 2020

Banana Split by Josi S. Kilpack

Banana Split (c) 2012 by Josi S. Kilpack
Banana Split (c) 2012
by Josi S. Kilpack
 I have often wondered what it would be like to live life as one of those poor hapless people in the murder mysteries on TV that continually stumble over dead bodies every week, and seem genuinely surprised when they do, despite the fact that last week, and the week before, the same thing happened. I've often wondered why poor Father Brown, as well as Laura Thyme and Rosemary Boxer don't develop PTSD because of their constant interactions with people showing up murdered.

In Banana Split, the seventh book in the Culinary Mysteries which feature Sadie Hoffmiller, a middle aged detective, that very thing has happened. It's the first book of Josi Kilpack's Culinary Mysteries that I've read, though. And in this book, poor Sadie, trying to relax in Hawai'i because of the stresses of other mysteries she's been involved with, finds herself entangled, quite literally, with the deceased body of a young woman found floating in the ocean. Already suffering from PTSD, OCD, etc. she finds herself terrified of leaving her condo, and accepting the police's assessment that the poor young woman must have died either from a drug overdose, or by falling in the water while intoxicated with something.

But then the young woman's eleven year old son shows up at Sadie's doorstep pleading for answers, and Sadie finds the strength to help the young man try to find out what really happened to his mom.

This book is a fun read, especially for people who enjoy mysteries. I appreciate how the victim is treated. Noelani Pouha isn't just a dead body put there for shock value and a reason to solve a mystery. Sadie sees her as a person, gets to know Noelani through her son and her friends, and cares about her, even though Sadie never met her while she was alive.  I liked the several different red herrings, which made figuring out the whodunit quite entertaining and kept me guessing.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden

"Sheriff Cade O'Brien was heartily sick of shooting people." This sentence begins The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden, and tells me a whole lot about Cade O'Brien in that one simple sentence. Right there, I like Cade O'Brien, and also feel a little sorry for him, too. But only a little. He's too cool to feel sorry for. So mostly I like him.

Sheriffs of Savage Wells, The (c) 2016
by Sarah M. Eden
And when I meet Paisley Bell, I like her just as much. She is good at being a peace officer, but no one in Savage Wells Wyoming in 1875 wants to take her seriously because she's a woman. Still, she'll try for the job even if she has to face off with the famous Cade O'Brien to do it.

In Savage Wells, the last sheriff left because he wanted to go cut down trees in Oregon. That left the spot of sheriff open. Paisley had been acting sheriff for several months as the past sheriff shirked more and more of his duties as he got ready to leave. So she should be perfect for the job. But the town council doesn't exactly agree with her. So they advertise for the job, and Cade O'Brien shows up. Not one to back down easily, Paisley wants to have a try for the job as well, so the town counsel decides to let them have a competition.

The banter between them is at times heated, and at times less so. Paisley really wants the job. She's good at it, and she wants to be able to take care of her aging father. Cade is good at it, too, and wants to settle in a small, quiet town without having to shoot any more bank robbers or horse thieves.

Despite their differences, and conflicts of interest, Paisley and Cade start realizing their attraction to each other. But then before they can discover what their growing feelings for each other might mean, a gang of bank robbers shows up in town, and the two sheriffs will have to put their feelings (good and bad) aside to deal with the bad guys. What happens next? Read the book and find out!

This is a very enjoyable and clean romance. There are a few clean kissing scenes, and the worst word in the book is "Saints!" which Cade is fond of spouting when things aren't going his way. If you like clean, western romance, this is a book you will enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem
(c) 2008
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
The second book in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, A Giant Problem by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi is a fun continuation that began with The Nixie's Song, and that will end with The Wyrm King.

A Giant Problem is a fun, suspenseful book that involve step-siblings Nick, Lauri, and Jules. (Nick and Jules's dad is married to Lauri's mom.)

The giants are waking up, and they need a nixie's song to get the giants away from people and out to sea. But Taloa, their Nixie friend is nowhere to be found. Nick, Lauri, and Jules are the only ones who know that so many unexplained fires are caused by so many giants starting to wake up!

Will the kids be able to stop the giants in time before they destroy all of Florida with their fighting, and their fire blowing?

If you enjoy middle grade fantasy with suspense and tension, you will enjoy this. Especially if you like exciting twist endings that will lead into the next book!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
(c) 1972 by Judy Blume
I remember reading Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume when I was a kid, and finding a lot about Sheila that I could relate to.

Sheila Tubman lives in New York City with her parents and older sister. She lives in the same apartment as Peter Hatchman, the protagonist in Judy Blume's first book of the series, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. While it happens in the same series, this is a standalone book. I enjoyed Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, but I especially liked Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, because as a girl, I was able to empathize with her a bit better. Especially when it came to her uncertainties about the unknown and scary things.

Going to Tarrytown for the summer (the Sleepy Hollow of Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow) she finds a lot to be scared of, from swimming, to dogs, to spiders. But she also grows in a lot of ways that I appreciated.

I recommend this book to young readers, upper elementary and junior high. But I'm sure adult readers wanting a little bit of nostalgia would enjoy it, too.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Spiderwick Chronicles The Nixie's Song (c) 2009
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black 
Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song by Toni DiTerlizzi and Holly Black is the first of three books in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles series. Stepsiblings Nicholas and Lori are having a hard time getting along after their parents marry. Lori loves mystical stories, fairies, unicorns, etc and Nicholas is practical. Lori has a copy of Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide and loves the Spiderwick Chronicles. (While the fourth wall isn't completely broken in this book, it comes close.)

After finding a four leaf clover in the woods as he's trying to entertain his new stepsister, Nicholas can suddenly see things he didn't see before. Including an injured nixie who needs to be taken to water in order to survive! Working together, the stepsiblings are able to help her only to find out something worse: a giant attacked her and her sisters, and Taloa, the nixie, needs their help!

When they reach out to the authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles (this part was rather whimsical coming near to breaking the fourth wall) the authors don't take them seriously! Fortunately, the Grace brothers are there, and do. Working together, will the kids be able to defeat the giant who has found Taloa and will kill her if she stops singing? Or is she, and all of them, doomed?

I recommend this fun book to young and old who enjoy middle grade fantasy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare is one of my favorite plays written by him. It was likely written in the mid 1590s.

It begins with the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and his fiance Hippolyta making plans for their upcoming marriage when Egeus, a citizen comes to them with a complaint. His daughter Hermia, won't marry Demetrius, the man he's picked for her, and he's upset! Lysander, the man Hermia does love is there too, but nothing Lysander or Hermia say will change Egeus' mind.

Theseus tells Hermia she has four days to choose one of three things: either take the man her dad has chosen, go to a convent, or even possibly face execution! Neither of those things are what she wants, and so Hermia and Lysander plan to run away. But they make a slight mistake in telling Hermia's friend Helena what their plans are. Helena is in love with Demetrius, and he was in love with her too before he decided to change his mind and ask Egeus for Hermia. So Helena, hoping to get on his good side, tells Demetrius what Hermia's plans are. Angry that Hermia has run off, Demetrius goes after Hermia and Lysander, and Helena goes after Demetrius!

Meanwhile in the forest, the king and queen of the fairies are at odds with one another over the fostering of a little boy who was the son of the queen's mortal friend who died in childbirth. Oberon the king, wants custody of the little boy, and the queen, Titania, wants to keep the child. So the king is mad.

Meanwhile, a group of actors including a rather silly fellow named Nick Bottom want to perform for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, and so they are on their way to Athens in the hopes of performing it.

Oberon, wanting to play a trick on his wife, gets his servant Puck to go look for a plant that has magical properties; when you place the juice on the eyelids of a sleeping person, they will fall in love with the first individual (human or animal) they see upon waking up! Oberon sees Demetrius, followed by Helena, stalking through the forest and berating her for following him. He wants to find Hermia and Lysander, and is mad! Taking pity on Helena, Oberon tells Puck to put the juice on Demetrius' eyes when he is asleep, so that he will fall in love with Helena when he wakes.

But poor Puck, not knowing what they look like, comes upon Lysander and Hermia sleeping (the two are a fair distance apart) and he puts the juice on Lysander's eyes. Unfortunately, Helena finds Lysander and wakes him, and when he looks at her, Lysander thinks he's in love with her!

Puck also finds Nick Bottom, and as a joke, turns his head into a donkey's head.

Realizing his mistake, he also puts the juice on Demetrius' eyes so that Demetrius will fall in love with Helena, which he does, but now both Lysander and Demetrius are in love with Helena, and Hermia is completely left out. But Helena thinks the three of them are playing a joke on her, and is mad at all of them.

Puck puts the juice on Titania's eyes, and when Nick Bottom accidentally wakes her, she thinks she's in love with a man who has a donkey head!

What happens next in this twisty turny romantic comedy? Read or watch the play to find out!

I recommend it to adults as well as children who enjoy Shakespearean comedy.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Sir Ian Holm, 1931-2020

Sir Ian Holm in his roll as Bilbo Baggins
in The Lord of the Rings Movies directed
by Peter Jackson

"I've thought up an ending for my book: 'And he lived happily ever after, to the end of his days." -Bilbo Baggins, from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings.

Sir Ian Holm, (12 September 1931-19 June 2020) who acted in such  works as Lord of the RingsChariots of FireDay after Tomorrow, etc. has passed away. I enjoyed his performances, and thought him to be a supurb actor. I am sad to hear of his passing.

"Go in Peace! I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil"- J.R.R. Tolkien (Gandalf, in Return of the King.)


Juneteenth, which is a contraction of June and Nineteenth is a celebration that originated in Texas commemorating the day on which General Gordon Granger announced federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. This came about two and a half years after the  Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect.
The Emancipation Proclamation freed all previously enslaved people in the U.S. As the Union Army advanced into the south, or as escaped slaves crossed into Union territory, either action freeing a person from the control of the Confederate government, that person was considered free. When the Union won the war in April 1865, it permanently freed all people previously enslaved under Confederate law. But Texas was remote compared to the other slave states. Granger's announcement on June 19, 1865 helped enforce the Emancipation Proclamation more consistently in Texas. After Juneteenth, there were some people still owned legally as slaves in the Union Border States (slave states that did not join the south during the Civil War) but these people were officially freed on December 6, 1885 by the 13th Amendment.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872-1906
I remember first reading We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar when I was a high schooler. It wasn't at school, it was at a mid-week church youth group, or Mutual as it is called in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The lesson being taught was about the pain that we often feel but hide from others for the sake of appearances, and how we need to be aware that other people might be feeling pain that we can't see.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was well acquainted with hidden pain. He knew, first hand, the injustice of racism, and how other people who hadn't experienced racism, too often don't see or want to see the pain they are casually causing their fellow humans by the way they treat them. It teaches a powerful lesson in how people who are treated badly, beaten down over and over again, can develop a fake exterior, acting happy and contented because the majority want them to act happy and contented. So they do so for the sake of survival. While I haven't experienced racism myself on a long term basis in my home country, I know what it's like to be systemically pushed down and silenced. I appreciated the poem, because I can relate to much of what it is saying.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born June 27, 1872. He was the first black person to make enough off of his writing to live off of it. He was born free, but his parents had been slaves before they were freed. He wrote numerous poems and novels during his short lifetime, and died tragically of tuberculosis at the age of 33. I often think, when authors and artists die young, like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sylvia Plath, or Vincent Van Gogh, what great works they could have created if they lived longer. Of course, that question can't be answered. And I am grateful for what Paul Laurence Dunbar did put out into the world, particularly We Wear the Mask, which is my favorite of his poems.

We Wear the Mask
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

D-Day, The Beaches of Normandy

On this day, 76 years ago, Canadian, American, and British soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy to fight against tyranny. The battle on June 6, 1944 became known as D-Day. There were five beaches on which the soldiers landed, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. 4,414 men died on that day. Despite these casualties, that day was a turning point in World War II. The allied forces went on to free France and defeat the axis powers. I hope that during this current time of unrest and uncertainty, that we can remember these men, their courage, and the ideals they fought for.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Sounder (c) 1969 by William H. Armstrong
Sounder by William H. Armstrong is a moving story about a boy and his dog. The boy is never given a name. The only important character with a name, is Sounder, the dog. He is a loyal, loving dog, who is badly injured while trying to protect his master, the boy's father, who is arrested for stealing a ham to feed his hungry family. The boy is unable to find his dog for a long time, but doesn't give up hope that somewhere, Sounder is alive. Finally, Sounder comes home, wounded, but alive. The boy and his dog make a strong pair as they go looking for the boy's father on various chain gangs. Meanwhile, the boy works hard to teach himself how to read, partly on his own, and partly with the help of a generous, altruistic teacher. Racism against the boy and his family is very prevalent in the book. But so are courage, caring, and love; from several characters, but especially from Sounder.

I recommend this book to people who are willing to learn uncomfortable but important things, and who enjoy stories of overcoming hardships, and stories about loving, loyal dogs.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The View from Castle Always by Melissa McShane

View from Castle Always, The (c) 2019 by Melissa McShane
The View from Castle Always by Melissa McShane is an exciting fantasy about a young lady who wants answers about why her once loving forest home seems to be rejecting her. Setting out to find Castle Always, and hopefully, answers, she finds more than she bargained for when the castle seems to want her dead! But with help from the castle's other prisoner and a cat, maybe she can figure her way out! Maybe.

This book has intimate scenes in it, and is not appropriate for children.

DragonWatch: Master of the Phantom Isle by Brandon Mull

DragonWatch: Master of the Phantom Isle
(c) 2019 by Brandon Sanderson
Master of the Phantom Isle by Brandon Mull, the winner of the Whitney Award for middle grade this year, is a fun, frightening book that kids and adults would enjoy. Poor Seth has lost his memory, and doesn't know friend from foe. Meanwhile, Kendra is doing what she can to keep more dragon sanctuaries from falling. If the dragon sanctuaries fall, Celebrant, the dragon king, will take over the world and humans will be in big trouble!

Fans of Kendra and Seth who have followed them since Fablehaven, will love this new book that continues on their adventures and misadventures!

Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is such a fun little novella. It's entertaining to read around Halloween time with all ages since it's not super scary, but scary enough to be fun. Poor Ichabod Crane doesn't know what he's up against when he sets off for home after a harvest party at midnight. He's already sad because the girl he liked dumped him, but then his troubles are about to get worse, since something he doesn't expect is waiting for him in the woods!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Whitney Award Gala and 2019 Winners

This year, because of Covid-19, the annual Whitney Award Gala was virtual. I missed going in person, but I think the Whitney Award Committee and everyone involved in making it virtual did such a great job. I really loved what they did to make the virtual event so fantastic. Congratulations to them for making such a wonderful event, and congratulations to the finalists and winners!
The Categories, with their finalists were:

The Book of Abish by Mette Harrison
Muddy: Where Faith and Polygamy Collide by Dean Hughes
The Girl in Gray by Annette Lyon
Deborah: Prophetess of God by H.B. Moore
Whatever It Takes by Jessica Pack

Mistaken Reality by Traci Hunter Abramson
Sanctuary by Traci Hunter Abramson
Nest Egg by Josi Avari
Robin and Marian by Stephanie Fowers
Death in Focus by Anne Perry

House of Assassins by Larry Correia
The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
To Kill a Curse by Jennifer Jenkins
The View from Castle Always by Melissa McShane
A Dragon's Fate by Daniel Swenson

Historical Romance
Miss Adeline's Match by Joanna Barker
The Paradox of Love by Teri Harman
What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd
Suffering the Schot by Nichole Van

Hitching the Pitcher by Rebecca Connolly, Sophia Summers, and Heather B. Moore
Love Again at the Heart of Main Street by Meg Easton
Dream of the Next Door Doc by Brenna Jacobs
Finding Jack by Melanie Jacobson
Missed Kiss by Cassie Mae

Young Adult General
Lovely War by Julie Berry
Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell
Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb
Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Mainee by Jeff Zentner

Young Adult Fantasy
Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg
Before the Broken Star by Emily R. King
Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller
The Bone Charmer by Breeana Shields
An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

Young Adult Speculative
Displaced by Bridget E. Baker
Harper by Jo Cassidy
The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie
Shattered Snow by Rachel Huffmire
Lovestruck by Kate Watson

Middle Grade
Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna Holyoak
Master of the Phanton Isle by Brandon Mull
The Obsidian Compass by Liesl Shurtliff
A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore
The Vacant Realm by Mike Thayer

The winner of the General category was Dean Hughes!

The winner of Mystery/Suspense was Traci Hunter Abramson for her book, Mistaken Reality!

The winner of Speculative was Amy Harmon!

The winner of Historical Romance was, again, Amy Harmon!

The winner of Romance was Melanie Jacobson!

The winner of Young Adult General was Julie Berry!

The winner of Young Adult Fantasy was Breeana Shields!

The winner of Young Adult Speculative was Ally Condie!

The winner of Middle Grade was Brandon Mull!

Best Novel by a Debut Author was Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart!

Novel of the Year in Adult Fiction was Sanctuary by Traci Hunter Abramson!

Novel of the Year in Youth Fiction was Lovely War by Julie Berry!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Miss Adeline’s Match by Joanna Barker

Miss Adeline’s Match (c) 2019
by Joanna Barker
In Miss Adeline’s Match by Joanna Barker, Adeline Hayes has her work cut out for her as a lady’s companion when her boss tells her that she’d better find a husband quick for his daughter if she knows what’s good for her. Adeline really does want what’s best for her friend Charity Edgeworth with or without Mister Edgeworth’s threat. And her heart aches for Charity who called off her engagement to George Henley with no warning or reason that Adeline knows. So when the two young women go to stay with The Beckett’s in the country, Adeline thinks this is a perfect opportunity to find her friend the husband, and the happiness she knows Charity deserves. So what is Adeline to do when George Henley shows up, making, as she sees it, a nuisance of himself, and why does Adeline find herself drawn to the handsome, but annoying Evan Whitfield?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

To Kill a Curse by Jennifer Jenkins

To Kill a Curse (2019)
by Jennifer Jenkins
In To Kill a Curse, an exciting fantasy romance by Jennifer Jenkins, we meet Fina Perona who is running away from home when her small boat is caught in a storm. Dashed to pieces by the waves, Fina’s boat is lost. But instead of drowning, she is pulled to safety by Antonio and his fellow sailors. But what Antonio doesn’t know, is that poor Fina is cursed, and anyone who comes in contact with her is endangered. Fina s determined not to let anyone be hurt by the curse that’s on her, but what happens when Antonio decides he wants to help her try to kill the curse?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore

Monster Like Me, A (c) 2019
by Wendy Swore
A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore is such a great book, not only for kids, but for adults as well. The main character, Sophie, because of a mark on her face, seems to sincerely think that she's a monster, especially after a cruel comment about her mark made by, of all people, an adult, a GROWN UP PERSON in a grocery store as the main character is standing right there! I appreciated the difficulties the main character faced as she went through her trials, and the things she started believing about herself and others around her. Knowing that in real life real people face these same troubles made me very glad for this book. It teaches empathy and compassion for others, and tells a fantastically written story at the same time.

I recommend this story to kids and adults who like strong protagonists who stumble sometimes, but get back up, and learn important lessons along the way.

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

First Girl Child, The (c) 2019
by Amy Harmon
The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon is a skillful blend of Norse mythology and fantasy, creating a well written story about a country cursed with being able to produce no girl children.

When a monk finds a dying woman, his own sister, who has just given birth to a baby boy not far from the Temple Mount where he serves, he witnesses her curse the baby's father who rejected both her and her son before she dies. When the women of the country start giving birth only to boy children, he realizes that his sister's curse has become a reality. But when the queen, seemingly, gives birth to a healthy girl after miscarrying several boys, he begins to think the curse is beginning to lift. Or is it? And why does his little nephew that he has been raising feel such a connection to the little baby princess, and who is the mysterious "Ghost", the woman with white hair and skin, and strange colored eyes he finds weeping under the very tree where his sister died?

The First Girl Child is meant for older ages, having violence and intimate scenes in it not appropriate for young readers.

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Spiderwick Chronicles, The (c) 2013
by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black are a fun set of five books/chapters that make up the story of the Grace children, Jared, Simon, and Mallory, who, with their mom, move into their great Aunt Lucinda's house. When Jared finds a book entitled Arthur Spiderwick's Fieldguide, he starts discovering a lot of things about the woods near his house that he wishes he didn't. And when something he and his family can't see, but can hear, starts to play pranks on them, things really start to get weird.

He, his brother, and his sister get embroiled in the world of the Fae folk, some of them benign, others dangerous. When the elves ask Jared to get the book for them, will Jared be able to do as they ask? But what happens when someone, or something else takes the book?

Read the Spiderwick Chronicles and find out.

Readers who enjoy middle grade fantasy will enjoy this story.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, first published in 1942, is an insightful book that looks at the world from the view of a devil. Screwtape, the master, is coaching Wormwood, an apprentice tempter as Wormwood works to guide his "patient" toward evil and away from good. It is an interesting look at how not only devils, but mean people as well, think, and how they seek to build themselves up by destroying (sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally) other beings. I liked how Screwtape talked about his and Wormwood’s philosophies of consuming other things to feed themselves made perfect sense to him, and the “Enemy’s” (God’s) philosophy of “filling the universe with tiny copies of himself” didn’t make any sense to their ultimately selfish philosophies, and therefore must have some ulterior motive behind it. It was interesting to see how people whose every thought is focused on self ultimately can’t or won’t understand selflessness, so to comfort themselves, they decide that an act that is selfless by someone else can’t be, and therefore must have a sinister, selfish bent to it since they can’t or won’t, understand anything else. I also found it insightful at the end when *spoiler* Wormwood failed, that Screwtape turned on Wormwood without mercy. It showed how selfishness, by its own nature, inevitably turns on itself. An endnote by Mr. Lewis mentioned how he hadn’t enjoyed writing The Screwtape letters, though it had been easy to do so. For myself, I appreciate that despite the fact that he had not had fun writing it, that he had done so anyway.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(c) 1997 by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Also titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the U.K.) by J. K. Rowling begins the magical series of Harry Potter and his friends as they go to school at Hogwarts, a school for witchcraft and wizardry.

Not only does Harry have the usual school troubles of tests, difficult assignments, teachers who don't like him, and bullies, but he also has to worry about Volemort, who wants to find him and finish the job he'd tried to do ten years before, when Harry was a baby. Voldemort killed Harry's parents, but oddly failed at killing Harry, leaving only a scar on his forehead.

Fortunately, Harry has the support of his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, as well as the school's headmaster, Dumbledore.

Hopefully, with their help, he can make it through his first year at
Hogwarts alive!

Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas
(c) 2010 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas by Mary Pope Osborne is the 26th Magic Treehouse book.

In this book, Jack and Annie travel to the cloud forest of Africa and meet a family of gorillas. The young gorillas seem to like the kids, and the young gorillas' mothers. But the silverback who leads the group is another story. Will he make friends with Jack and Annie too? And what will happen when a dangerous leopard has its hungry eye on the littlest gorilla? Read the book and find out!

Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn
(c) 2008 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne is the 37th book of the series.

In this story, Annie and Jack travel back to Old Japan to find the secret to peace, and bring that secret back to cheer Merlin up. But while in Edo (the ancient name for Tokyo) they are questioned by Samurai wanting them to show their passports, and they don't have any! Who will come to Jack and Annie's aid? Read the book and find out!

Magic Treehouse: Dinosaurs Before Dark (Book 1) by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Tree House Book 1 Dinosaurs Before Dark
(c) 1992 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Dinosaurs Before Dark begins the fantastic series of over thirty books by Mary Pope Osborne.

In the first book, Jack and Annie find the magic treehouse for the first time, and are transported back to the time of the dinosaurs! As they explore, Jack finds a mysterious medallion in the grass with the letter M on it, and they wonder what it could mean. But before long, their attention is diverted by a dangerous T-Rex! How do they escape this ferocious monster? Read the book and find out!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary is a sweet story about Ramona during her 4th grade year. She’s worried that the family might have to move if her dad can’t find a job in Portland, and she doesn’t want to have to leave her school and her friends, and she’s worried about her mom too, and the baby inside that’s slowly making her mom’s stomach bigger and bigger. But what secret is her Aunt Bea keeping, and what does it have to do with her best friend Howie’s Uncle Hobart? This is a fun book that kids will enjoy reading, and adults who enjoy fun children’s stories will like it as well.
Ramona Forever  (c) 1984
by Beverly Cleary

The Wyrm King by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Wyrm King, The (2009)
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
The Wyrm King (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles #3) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black is the last book in a three book series that follows the Spiderwick books. Nick, his stepsister Lauri, his brother Jules, and the three Grace kids have a race against time to stop the hydras that are starting to create sinkholes all over Florida. Will bringing the giants back from the ocean help get rid of the hydras? Will finding the source of all the hydra eggs help stop them? Read the book and find out!

This is a fun novella aimed at young readers, but any age who enjoys a good fantasy will enjoy this book.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

False Prince, The (c) 2013
by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is an exciting book for middle grade readers and high schoolers. Sage, an orphan, is picked up off the streets and saved from punishment for stealing some meat, but the guy who saves him, Conner, is not doing him any favors. Sage quickly realizes that Conner has some sinister and dishonest plans for him and three other boys; passing one of them off as the prince lost four years before. When Conner callously kills one of the boys, Sage knows that Conner is a bad guy who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Will Sage and the other two boys survive their imprisonment in Conner's house? Will the two boys Conner doesn't pick meet the fate of the first boy? And who knew an astounding twist will come toward the end?

If you like adventures with plucky teens as the protagonists in fantastical worlds, then you'll enjoy this book!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Henry and the Clubhouse by Beverly Cleary

Henry and the Clubhouse
(c) 1962 by Beverly Cleary
Henry and the Clubhouse by Beverly Cleary is an enjoyable series of chapters following Henry Huggins as he juggles the responsibilities of his paper route and his desire to have a clubhouse for himself and his friends. (Guy friends, no girls allowed!) But what happens, when little Ramona, angry about this dictum, decides to lock him in his precious clubhouse? And is there any Henry can get Ramona to stop pestering him in other ways? Like many of Beverly Cleary's other books, the story doesn't have a main story goal or question, though there is the theme of his paper route and the clubhouse running through it. Each chapter is its own short story following the other chapters in chronological order as Henry works through one conflict after another. Kids and adults who like to remember what it was like to be a kid, would enjoy this book.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

Henry Huggins (c) 1950 by Beverly Cleary
Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary is a fun book for kids, especially those who love their pets. Henry Huggins is on his way home from the swimming pool, when a skinny, hungry dog begs him for a taste of his chocolate ice cream cone. He wants the dog to come home with him (it doesn’t have a license, so it can’t possibly have an owner) but he can’t ride the bus with a dog unless it’s in a container of some kind. So what does he do? He puts the dog’s lower half ina paper bag and wraps the upper half of the poor creature in a huge amount of packing paper in an attempt to get the dog on the bus, and all the way home. This begins Henry Huggins’ adventures and misadventures with his new dog Ribsy. Even as an adult, I enjoyed the story as much as I did when I read it as a youngster.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis

The Horse and His Boy (c) 1954
by CS Lewis
The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis is an enjoyable tale about Shasta, a human boy, Bree, a male horse, Aravis, a human girl, and Whin, a female horse. Both Whin and Bree are talking horses from Narnia, kidnapped when they were foals, and taken to Calormen, a country to the south of Narnia. Shasta is pale skinned despite the fact that everyone around him has dark skin, and he wonders why. When he meets Bree and Bree tells him that he must be from Narnia, or possibly Arkenland and especially after he overhears the man he thought was his father discussing selling Shasta as a slave with another man, Bree and Shasta decide to run away together. On their journey, they meet Whin and Aravis. Whin’s story is much like Bree’s, and Aravis is running away to escape an arranged marriage. The four team up, but will their combined forces be enough to make it through Tashban, and across the wide desert to reach Arkenland, and Narnia?

I recommend this delightful tale to readers young and old who enjoy adventurous journeys, narrow escapes, and characters with lots of courage.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne

Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve (c) 2008
by Mary Pope Osborne
Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne is one of the many fun books in the Magic Tree House series, a series of fun books for kids who are getting ready to start reading middle grade.

Annie and Jack, the main characters, are off on a slightly scary adventure into the Middle Ages with their sorcerer in training pal, Teddy. Their mission is to restore order to a castle that has been bewitched by the Raven King. The story is appropriate for young kids, scary enough for the conflict to be interesting, but not too scary for its audience. As a grown up, I enjoyed it, and I recommend it to adults and young kids 3rd to 5th grade who enjoy fun adventure stories.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

Henry and Ribsy (c) 1954
by Beveryl Cleary
Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary is a fun book for young kids about the adventures that Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy go on. Henry really wants to go salmon fishing with his dad in a few months, but his dad says that Henry needs to keep Ribsy out of trouble in order for that to happen. But how can Henry do that, when Ribsy chases the garbage man for trying to "steal" their garbage, and eats Ramona Quimby's ice cream cone? Read the book to find out!

First published in 1954, it has been a well loved book about a boy and his dog ever since!

 Dog lovers, young and old, would enjoy this book!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

Ribsy (c) 1964
by Beverly Cleary
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary is a fun book for both kids and adults.

Ribsy and Henry Huggins are best friends. So when Ribsy gets lost in the parking lot at a mall and then accidentally jumps into the wrong car, he'll do whatever it takes to get back to Henry Huggins!
This book is a fun adventure for dog lovers as Ribsy goes from one escapade to another in his efforts to get back home to Henry Huggings from enduring a flower scented bubble bath to being stuck on a dog-unfriendly fire escape!

Dog lovers and anyone who enjoys a fun adventure involving dogs and kids, will like this book.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Movie Review: It's A Wonderful Life

It may be a little too late to review a Christmas movie, but It's a Wonderful Life has a message that is important all through the year.

George Bailey has run into some financial trouble. His Uncle Billy has lost 8,000 dollars of their bank's money, and George might end up going to jail. But in the midst of this crisis, comes a guardian angel, Clarence. A bit bumbly, but good hearted, to help out the situation. But as he's trying to encourage George, what does George do? He says that everyone else would be better off without him, and the he wished he'd never been born! What does Clarence do in response? He takes George on an adventure into a world where he really has never been born to see what would happen if he really hadn't been born! The movie is a little slow in beginning, but it's message is great. I would encourage anyone who enjoys Christmas movies, and feel-good movies in general, to watch this.

It was made in 1946, and directed by Frank Capra. It starred Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed as Mary Bailey.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Adventurers Wanted The Axe of Sundering by M.L. Forman

Adventurers Wanted: The Axe of Sundering
 (c) 2017 by M.L. Forman
Adventurers Wanted Book 5 The Axe of Sundering by M.L. Forman is an interesting and exciting book. While it moved too slow in some places for my taste, had some scenes that didn't move the story forward, and left a lot of questions unanswered which isn't a good thing for a last book in a series, it was still an entertaining book, and an exciting ending to the series. Alex Taylor is off on another adventure helping his mentor Welan Venkyn (the spelling may be off, since I listened to the audiobook) defeat his evil nephew. But toward the end, a surprise foe arises whom Alex didn’t expect. The ending chapters were particularly exciting, and I did enjoy them. Fans of the series will probably like this final book, as will fans of fantasy adventure stories.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
(c) 1964 by Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is an enjoyable book for young kids. Little Charlie Bucket lives with his parents and all four grandparents in poverty. He’s a good kid, but because of their difficult situation, he doesn’t have much. He doesn’t even get candy but once a year on his birthday. All this changes when he gets a lucky golden ticket to tour Willie Wonka’s amazing Factory. I enjoyed the story when I was young, and still enjoyed listening to the audio version recently. I found Willie Wonka’s behavior more annoying as an adult however, and questioned the ethics of his employing Oompa Loompas for no pay other than cocoa beans. Also, When I was little, I didn’t think about how economically devastated the town would be when he suddenly let all his workers go just because some had been spies. Instead of shutting the factory down, he could have created a system that brought an end to the spying instead of putting so many innocent workers out of employment. However, this isn’t something that kids would really worry about, and the story is aimed at kids after all. Even with my grown up brain, I still enjoyed the story, and cheered little Charlie on, the whole way. I recommend this story to readers in 3rd to 7th grade who enjoy stories about kids who are rewarded for being good and honest, and of course, candy!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

Woods Runner (c) 2011 by Gary Paulson
Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen is an enjoyable and suspenseful tale about the life of a 13 year old boy named Samuel who lives on the frontier during the Revolutionary War in America. One day while out hunting, Samuel sees smoke coming from the direction of his settlement. On returning, he discovers from reading the tracks, that British soldiers as well as a group of Iroquois have come through and have either killed or captured everybody. His own parents are not among those who are dead, and Samuel sets out in the hopes that he might rescue them. The story that follows is suspenseful, well-written, and educational as well, without being obviously so. The adventures Samuel has along the way, and the people he meets all give insights into what life was like during the American revolution, and the risks that many people took so that they could live in a country that governed itself.

I really liked the story. It seems to be geared toward young readers, but I think anyone who enjoys adventure stories, and/or stories about the Revolutionary War would enjoy Samuel’s story.