February 22, 2018

A Coming Evil

Perhaps the most written about time in history is World War II. It seems that there a dozens of books written about this war, dozens of books with many stories to tell. After all, many different countries, cities, towns, and people were affected by World War II. It's no wonder that their stories are constantly resurfacing and being put to print. The time of the Nazis' regime was perhaps the bleakest in human history, a time when no one knew what tomorrow would bring, a time when people feared an evil power that was taking over the world, and a time when heroes were made - brave men and women who would not let darkness snuff out light. A Coming Evil by Vivian Vande Velde tells the story of one of these heroes, the story of a girl who wouldn't give up.

Lisette hated the country; she hated everything about it. She couldn't believe that her parents would send her away from Paris to live on a small farm with the aunt she barely know and the cousin she couldn't stand. Lisette couldn't find a reason to enjoy any of it, but then it only gets worse. Unknown to herself and her parents, her aunt has been secretly housing and caring for five children, three Jews and two Gypsies. If the Nazis find them, the children will be taken away and Lisette's aunt will be killed. And now that Lisette knows too, she will be punished as well. On top of all that, the hill near Lisette's aunt's house is said to be haunted. Lisette says she doesn't believe in spooks, but what will happen when she comes face to face with a ghost?

This book was very strange. It felt like the author didn't quite know what sort of story she wanted to write. It seems to be two completely different stories, one about the real life heroism of normal people during World War II, and a second about older history and a ghost hunt. Either story could have been good on its own, but lumping them together doesn't work. Also, I will not give it away, but the final plot twist in chapter 20 made no sense and actually angered me a bit. The twist seems like an afterthought and left me with more questions than answers. That said, technically this book is well written aside from a few chapters where Vivian Vande Velde dumped too much information to the page. I would advise that parents exercise caution when letting their younger children read this book; after all, it is set during World War II and talks a great deal about the Holocaust. Like I said before, this was a strange book and, while a younger reader might enjoy it, it is not for everyone.

*****
RJ

February 5, 2018

The Virginian

There are so many stories about the Old West, a time all its own and uniquely strange. We have all heard stories of the West: the vast open plains and prairies full of tumbleweed and framed by tall snow capped mountains; the lonely towns sitting out in the desert with a few dusty cowboys walking about; the saloon and the bank, the church that doubles as a school; all covered by a thin layer of humidity and sand. And we see the cowboy on his horse, the righteous character of the story, a tall man with a dark hat pulled over his eyes This is what we call the Old West; this is what we are used to. The Virginian by Owen Wister is all this and more; it shows the Old West the way we know it but also with a bit of something new.

No one really knows who The Virginian is; he is many different things. To his boss he is a hard working man who can be trusted, to his friends he is a quiet, stoic man who can drink them under the table anytime, and to his few enemies he is a force to be reckoned with and a fast gun. But he is still a mystery to everyone - a man with seemingly no past, no family, and no permanent home. Then Molly Wood comes to town. She is fiercely independent and The Virginian's opposite in every way. But when fate throws these two together, they can become a perfect team. The Virginian may be the only person who can tame Molly, and she might be the only person The Virginian will open up to.

This book was very interesting to read. Written in 1902, it is very much a product of its time; the language is very eloquent and flowery, which made it a little hard to read at times. There are also some very long chapters. The biggest problem with this book is the way in which it is written. While it starts out as a second person narrative, the character who is narrating slowly falls out of the story and he is replaced by a third person narrator. These two narratives switch back and forth over the course of the book, making it a little hard to read and a little mentally jarring. What I did like about this book, though, was how neatly if finished. Many things happen in the book and I thought a lot of them were going to get lost at the end, but every one of them is finalized and ended by the last chapter, leaving me with a sense of satisfaction. The ending itself is also wonderful with a nice aftertaste of happiness and joy. Aside from a few things, this book was very good and worth at least a try - another notch to add to my classic books holster (pun intended.)

*****
RJ

February 2, 2018

Cast Two Shadows

In 1776, the colonists of America started a war against Great Britain. They began a fight for freedom from tyranny, daring to dream of a free country. While the revolution started out as a grand and glorious fight for liberty, it soon became very obvious that war was nothing to be proud of; it kills young men in the fields, destroys families forever, and sets father and son against each other. But for the cause of liberty the patriots fought on through the war and bought their freedom dearly. Cast Two Shadows by Ann Rinaldi paints a picture of the end of the revolution perfectly. Through the eyes of a young southern girl, we see the other side of the war and exactly what fighting does to families.

Caroline has people hanging inside her - not literally, but she has seen things. She has seen the horrible things that the British have done; she's seen what war can do. The British killed her friend, a boy she had grown up with. It all happened so fast. One moment he was with her, her childhood friend, riding over the hills with her and the next he was just a hanging body in a tree. He's gone but he still hangs inside Caroline, and she is determined that she will not let anyone else hand beside him. So when Caroline has the chance to save her brother's life, she goes to help him. But the way to him is full of danger and British soldiers. Will Caroline be able to save her brother in time and will she learn something about herself along the way?

I loved this book, while it is probably below my reading level it was still great. It was a little slow to start but Ann Rinaldi still offers up and interesting perspective of the Revolutionary War from the point of view of the south. The pacing was almost perfect and Rinaldi's characters and descriptions jumped right off the page. I do recommend that only kids 12 and up read this book, as there is a bit of langues and several chapters with gruesome descriptions and thing that might upset younger children. Parents should also be aware that the book mentions things like mistresses and "confusing" family angles. But, in general, this was a good book and I thoroughly enjoyed it and think it is worth a read.

*****
RJ

January 22, 2018

The Captivity of the Oatman Girls

The Captivity of the Oatman Girls is a retelling of the true story of Olive, Mary Anne, and Lorenzo Oatman. Published in 1857, it told by the actual Lorenzo and Olive, and gives a good example of Native American life, and Culture.

The Oatman family had been traveling to California when the Apache tribe attacked. Young Olive and Mary Anne were captured and Lorenzo was left for dead. All the others were massacred. Along the way with their captors, the girls faced poor living conditions, malnutrition, and death, but nothing stopped their brother on his journey to find them.

i recommend this book to any adventure lover or anyone curious about Native American culture. It was a great read, and i will read it again

*****
AK

January 21, 2018

Case for a Creator

Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel is the third book on his search for the truth about God. the Case for a Creator focuses on Strobel's research regarding science and the actual facts.

Strobel was once a profound atheist. He was offended by Christianity and the "lack of evidence." He did, however, decide to look into the philosophies and building blocks of it after his wife accepted Jesus. in this book Strobel has recounted the fraud of Haeckel's embryos and more.

I found this book very informative and, if you are looking for answers about God, I strongly recommend it. There is a lot of evidence i didn't know about, and I definately feel stronger in my own faith.

*****
AK

January 20, 2018

Beauty's Daughter

Beauty's Daughter by Carolyn Meyer is the story of what might have happened to Helen of Troy's daughter as she grew up on a war front without a mother.

Hermione was the daughter of King Menelaus and the spectacular beauty, Queen Helen. taking totally after her father, and her brother taking after Helen, Hermione was a bit resentful until Paris of Troy came and spirited Helen and her brother away. Left with her vengeance-seeking father, Hermione will journey to far off troy for a great war.

I very much enjoyed this book. I have read it twice for its beautiful composition of suspense, action, and romance. I recommend it to you if you are interested in those things, for Beauty's Daughter has it all.


*****
AK

November 21, 2017

Standing in the Light

Standing in the Light by Mary Pope Osborn is a book written in diary format about a young Quaker girl in Pennsylvania in 1763. Her family's small cabin is surrounded by a small community, forest, and the many natives hiding there.

Catherine Carey Logan's biggest problem seemed to be young Jess Owen. They had been friends last year, but this year she was either tongue tied, or saying too much. When it felt like nothing could possibly be worse, an Indian attack came, and her  brother and she were taken, then split apart to live in different camps. She will struggle to survive in  her new home with her new "family."

I read this book in a short amount of time. It was engaging and quick and I recommend it to really anyone. It is an adventurous, imaginative story of events that would actually happen on the frontier.


*****
AK

A Dangerous Promise

We have followed the Kelly children through many things; we've seen them go West on the orphan train and watched them get adopted by several different families. Each one has faced his or her own challenges and gone on their own adventure, each one more dangerous or exciting than the last. But there is an even bigger problem heading for the Kellys and one of them will land right in the middle of it. A Dangerous Promise by Joan Lowery Nixon continues the story of Mike, the oldest Kelly boy, as he runs straight into the biggest fight in American history, the Civil War.

Even though he is three years below the minimum age to enlist, Mike Kelly is determined to become a soldier - a navy blue clad soldier of the Union army. Now that war has officially broken out, Mike can't wait to turn 16 to fight so he comes up with a plan. The army needs drummers to lead the battle charges and direct the troops and - best of all - drummers didn't need to be 16. So, drum in hand and best friend at his side, Mike sets off to enlist. But war is not for anyone, let alone little boys with big dreams - a sad lesson that Mike will soon learn.  

This book was okay. While it is a nice enough continuation of the Orphan Train Adventures series, I did not enjoy it that much. Perhaps it's just because I don't like books about war or this time era, but I found this book boring and/or too quick moving. I think that Joan Lowery Nixon tried to do too much with this one; the book is 148 pages but had the action I would expect from a 200 or more page book. Some of the chapters seemed too full and should have been spread out more. The writing was good though, and this book does add on the series as a whole. 

*****
RJ

November 15, 2017

Black Beauty

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell was first published in 1877 and is focused on the mistreatment of  animals in that time. Sewell had first hand knowledge of the horrible conditions faced by many horses and she was compelled to write the book.

Black Beauty is an English horse who was born on a beautiful farm and treated well. Through the course of the story, he is passed to many other masters, some good, some bad. Along the way, he makes friends and learns about the world through a horse's perspective.

I would honestly recommend this book to anyone, other than a very sensitive child because, while the book does talk about horse beatings, it isn't in detail. This is a lovely story that I would read again.

*****
AK

November 14, 2017

A Touch of Stardust

A Touch of  Stardust, by New York Times bestselling author Kate Alcott, is a novel about life in the Golden Age of Hollywood. This, however, is an inside look into the lives of the stars.

Julie Crawford comes to Hollywood hoping to get a job as a screenwriter. Her big break comes when she gets a job working for Carole Lombard. Julie will watch the magic of Gone with the Wind unfold, as well as the romance of Lombard and Clark Gable.

I would recommend this book for ages 13 and up because of details regarding the Gable - Lombard affair, other Hollywood scandals, and the protagonist's own love life. All in all, an enjoyable read about the Golden Age of film.

*****
AK

November 13, 2017

Captain from Castile

Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger is an adventure book set in the 16th century, when the Inquisition ruled and a new world of treasure awaited.

Pedro de Vargas is a young, wealthy Spanish youth. His father is an elderly and respected knight. Pedro has everything he would ever want but when his family is taken by the Inquisition, he must set them free and travel to the new world of Mexico for a new life.

This was a great book. I recommend it to anyone 13 and up. There is some questionable content when a woman becomes pregnant without being married and this is celebrated. O
ther than that, it's a good book.

*****
AK

November 9, 2017

My brother Sam is dead

Oftentimes we glorify the Revolutionary War, the glorious fight that freed America from British rule, the conflict that made heroes out of George Washington, John Adams, and Paul Revere. The fight for America's freedom, we call it. But amid the glory, we forget how brutal the war really was. It tore families apart, killed thousands of men, and changed an entire country. We forget that while George Washington was fighting his way up and down the eastern seaboard, there were regular people trying to live their lives, everyday civilians who wanted nothing to do with the fighting. Ordinary people caught up in the crossfire of two armies. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier tells the story of one ordinary family divided and torn apart, of one little boy in the middle of a great big war.

Tim had always looked up to his big brother Sam. Sam was everything Tim wanted to be: smart, brave, confidant, and bold enough to stand up to Father. Their father was the most frightening man in Redding, but Sam was never afraid to stand nose to nose with him, especially now that war has broken out. Father was a Tory and Sam was a Patriot, and each was determined to have his way. Tim didn't know what side of the Revolution he was on, and try as he might, he couldn't pick one side or the other; he was certain he'd know when he got older, but what happens when you're forced to grow up sooner then you thought?

I did not particularly like this book; while the writing was good and there were a few interesting twists, the title is a huge deal breaker. Spoiler Warning...Sam dies! The title says it and gives away what could have been a huge shock to the reader. But even the way the authors handled the death was unsatisfying. Through the whole book, I knew Sam was going to die so it came as no surprise when he did, but - another Spoiler Warning - he doesn't die till the very last sentence of the very last chapter, even then he's killed for cattle stealing, which he was framed for, and not fighting in the Revolution. The whole thing was very maddening and should serve as a lesson to all writers on how not to deliver a plot twist. I did appreciate the rest of the book though; as I said, I liked the flow, and the story itself offers an interesting look at the lives of common people during the Revolutionary War. While the book itself is geared towards younger children, mainly middle schoolers and tweens, I enjoyed it in high school, and I don't think anyone is too old to read it.

*****
RJ

October 9, 2017

Her Highness the Traitor

England! One of Europe's crowning jewels and the nation that has long been known for its splendor and greatness. Its castles, its countryside, its people, and most of all, its royal families. For years the royals that have graced the throne of Great Britain have amazed the world; people such as King Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria each left their marks on the English monarchy. And each in their turn passed on their crown to the next royal in for the throne. Most of the time the passing down of power goes smoothly and the monarchy is granted a new ruler swiftly and without incident. But there are times when problems arise. Her Highness the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham recounts an example of this, perhaps the most notorious in all of English history.

Very few people know who Jane Grey was; hardly anyone knows her name, and even fewer remember the women who put her on the throne of England. Jane Grey did not know that she was fourth in line for the monarchy; she only cared about her studies and her books. Her mother, on the other hand, wanted her daughter to rise to greatness, she wanted her to be the queen of England; but there was no way to do this. But after young King Edward died without and heir, an opportunity opens up. Together with Jane Dudley, Francis Grey planned to fulfill her plans for her daughter, putting all three women in a dangerous position.

This book was an interesting read. A strange mix of historical facts and character driven story, Her Highness the Traitor gave an interesting look at English court after the reign of King Henry VIII. While it is definitely  a book for teenagers and young adults due to many descriptions of marriage relations, this book was an enjoyable read that history fanatics will enjoy. It is a thinking book and should not be read casually.

*****
RJ

August 24, 2017

Immortal Wife

It was an age of discovery. The west was completely uncharted and it seemed to call every young and adventurous soul to it. The America we know today was non - existent; only the shell of our borders could be seen. The government in Washington was just beginning, trying to find a way to continue after the deaths of its founders. The west called. What was beyond the wilderness? Where did the land end and meet the sea, and who would pull America's borders further than before? Such is the story contained in the pages of Irving Stone's book Immortal Wife. 

John and Jessie Fremont have been almost lost to history; true, they lived, but their story has been forgotten among the others stories of their time. Tales of great men and war heroes who shaped a nation. John and Jessie fell in love when they were young; they hardly knew what love was but they were determined to stay together no matter what joys, triumphs, pain or sadness they faced; they could not have imagined how hard their determination would be tested. The goal of a marriage is to help and sustain each other in your ambitions, thought Jessie, but what if the ambitions you aspire to pull your love apart?

I did not enjoy this book; this is unusual because I usually love Irving Stone's writing. But this one left a sour taste in my mouth. Perhaps it was the sheer length of the book - it has seven sections, each with at least nine chapters - or maybe it was the characters, who seemed demanding and needy. They didn't seem like people I would want to actually meet. The goal of good writing is to create or portray characters who pull you into the story and have you hanging on their every word; unfortunately, this book failed to do such and actually had me hoping for the end of each chapter. Not the best book I've ever read, I'ed give it a three out of ten.

*****
RJ


August 18, 2017

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin is an American classic written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book was written in 1852 and set in the same time period. It was a stand against slavery and added fuel to the start of the American Civil War.

The book opens on a Kentucky plantation owned by the Shelbys, who are kind masters. Although they treat their slaves well, they are in debt and must sell Tom and Henry. Tom is their most loyal hand and would never think of running. Henry is a mere child with a mother willing to run to save him.

I would recommend this book to anyone 13 and older. This is a very true retelling of how slaves were abused, and there are some very racist words written. I believe that this book is a life lesson of Christianity, and it has a right to be called a classic.

*****
AK

June 19, 2017

Whence Came a Prince

Scotland, the land of rolling green hills and moors, stretching on forever to the sea, where the waves crash in foaming white caps. Imagine living here, one with the land and touching the sky, born from the land and raised to tend it. Imagine the people: big, brawny Scotsmen and landowners, tradesmen and shepherds. Wouldn't you like to explore this land? With this book you can. Whence Came a Prince by Liz Curtis Higgs, the third in a series, tells th story of a journey across Scotland, the journey which would change three people's lives forever.

Leana never thought her life would unfold like this; the man she loved taken from her by her sister, her child kept from her, and her name dragged through the mud. But Leana was still happy. She knew the Lord was with her and he had blessed her greatly in many ways - most of all with another child. -
                                                                               
Rose could not be happier; she had everything she had ever wanted; a roof over her head, a husband who loved her, and a stepson she adored. Then oh happy day Rose became pregnant. How could she not be happy? She could finally give her husband sons of her own. But she couldn't help feeling guilty about Leana. -
                                                                               
Jamie was wrestling with himself. Everything had gone wrong. What was he supposed to do now? He loved his wife Rose, but he had loved her sister too; he had stolen from his father and brother; and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't make himself trust God with his problems. Was there no way to redeem himself?

I did not particularly like this book. While the writing and storytelling were fine, I was constantly distracted, because the story itself is an almost exact copy of the Jacob, Lean, and Rachel story from the Bible. I am okay with authors basing their stories on the Bible or putting in an allegory, but this was too much and in the long run took away from the story. For those who do want to read it, though, I would recommend that twelve and up only read this book because there are some very delicate matters about life, death, and marriage; as well as some rather detailed child birthing chapters.

*****
RJ

April 5, 2017

The Game of Silence

In a time long forgotten, the tribe of Indians know as the Ojibwe roamed the woods and waters of midwest America. They were simple people in the means of their living - hunting, fishing, trading - but they were happy. The Ojibwe had only ever known their own island in the Great Lakes, and they never wanted to leave. There was a sort of rhythm and serenity to their daily lives, which kept them content. Little did they know that outside their homeland, the world itself was rapidly changing; no longer content with their current land and seeking to gain more territory, the white men had begun relocating many Indian tribes, sending them away from their homes and into the West. The Ojibwe are next. This is the story contained in the pages of the book The Game of Silence, by Louise Erdrich.

Omakayas loved to play the game of silence. After listening to Nokomis (Grandmother) sing the game of silence song, all the children were meant to remain completely quiet until an adult released them. The game was always great fun; the challenge of remaining absolutely quiet while trying not to laugh along with her favorite cousin was almost too much for Omakayas, but the thought of losing the game was always enough to keep her quiet. But tonight it was easy to be silent; the usually boring adult conversation was more than a little interesting. Fishtale had returned with sobering news; according to the white man's government, all Ojibwe would be moved off their island and sent to a faraway place. What!? Leave her home, her favorite place in the world? Omakayas couldn't believe what she was hearing; she wanted to jump up and demand an explanation, but if she did that she would lose the game of silence.

Another wonderful book by Louise Erdrich, and a wonderful sequel to The Birchbark House. Once again there are some very sad and somewhat disturbing chapters, as well as light spirit worship. Parents should use discretion when letting younger children read this.

*****
RJ

April 3, 2017

The Late Homecomer

The LateHomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong family memoir set from after the Vietnam War in Laos to 2007 in America, with stops in Thailand. This book tells about the struggle of the Hmong people to find a home and care for their families.

Although Kao Kalia Yang is young, she has seen and  heard many things. Born in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand, she has heard of the old life in Laos and the coming life in America. What will the new land be like? What will the people be like? Will it be a true home? And do Americans only eat peanut butter sandwiches?

I loved this eloquently written book because it paints a true picture of the amazing men and women who strove to find a home for their children. I would recommend The LateHomecomer to anyone 12 and up because it paints a detailed picture of the many Hmong people who were killed trying to live in Laos.

*****
AK

March 22, 2017

The Birchbark House

Long ago, in a very different America than we know now, there lived a group of people. These people were not the Spanish traders that came in 1492-1832, they were not the colonists who came with Captain John Smith to enlarge England's territory in 1608, nor were they the Pilgrims who came in 1620, attempting to escape religious persecution. The people of which I speak were the Ojibwa Indians, a people group that has long since ceased to exist. But they are not forgotten in this book, the first of a series by Louise Erdrich. The author brings the life of a young Ojibwa girl to life. I believe everyone will enjoy The Birchbark House, although I do suggest that parents of smaller children pre-read this book before allowing their children to do so, because there are some very sad and somewhat shocking chapters, as well as some instances of spirit worship.

Omakayas (Oh-MAH-kEY-aynz), loves springtime; this was the time that everything came back to life after the oppressive winter. The flowers bloomed, the birds sang, the creek laughed at her as it bubbled and tripped over the rocks along its merry way. And best of all, the family moved back into the summer house. Every year, Omakayas rejoiced when it was time to move; carrying pots and cookware to the cabin, rolling out the bed mats, even setting up the dreaded hide tanning rack was joyous, for it meant that the family was home. True, it was spring and the beginning of the year, Omakayas's favorite season. But little did she know how much this one year would change her as a person. Was she strong enough, brave enough, smart enough to face what was coming?

An excellent book by Louise Erdrich, though younger children may be bored, as it spends a good amount of time explaining very small details. I found that this drew me into the story, so much so that I felt connected to the characters. A wonderful book and a great start to what is sure to be an excellent series.

*****
RJ

March 21, 2017

Calico Captive

Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare is an adventure and travel story set shortly before the French and Indian War which stretches from Charleston all the way to an Indian camp, and then to Montreal.

Young Miriam Willard, who lives with her sister, would have never guessed that the next step after seeing her first party and getting her first beau was being rudely awakened and captured by wild Indians. Then she was dragged through dense foliage with her pregnant sister and her family to who knows where or why.

I loved this book and couldn't put it down. I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates history or to anyone who enjoys heart-warming family stories. I wouldn't put an age limit on Calico Captive because it is truly captivating for all ages

*****
AK

March 7, 2017

Lily's Crossing

Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff, is a historical fiction quick read. It is set in Rockaway, New York in the summer of 1944. The Allies have invaded France. But one little girl is about to realize how close to home the war is.

Lily Mollahan waits anxiously for her summer in Rockaway. No school, no piano, and all summer with her best friend, Margaret, who lives in Rockaway. But, when she reaches Rockaway, Lily finds that Margaret has to move, that her father is joining up, that the piano was brought to Rockaway, and the neighbors want her to be friends with their nephew. Lily's plans are thrown askew.

This was a simple read and I would recommend it to anyone because, although it held my interest, there was nothing in it that could be classified as unsuitiabe for young children.

*****
AK

March 6, 2017

A Place to Belong

Once there were six children: Frances, Megan, Mike, Danny, Peg, and Petey. They were the Kelly children. In the mid-eighteen hundreds, they lived with their mother in New York City; they lived in a small run down apartment in the shabby part of town. Mother and Frances worked long hours washing floors in the houses of the rich people, none of the children went to school, and Mike sometimes got in trouble for pick-pocketing, but the Kelly children wouldn't have it any other way. What they lacked in money they made up for in love; their home may have been small, but it was filled to bursting with the love they shared for each other. No Kelly ever wanted to leave the ones they treasured. But everything is about to change; after Mike is caught pick-pocketing again, the children's mother decides that she cannot offer them the life they deserve so, with a heavy heart, she prepares to send them all West. They know they are going to better lives out of the congested city, but their worst nightmare is coming true: they are all going to be split up!

Danny was very glad that he and Peg had been adopted together and they were now going to live with a very kind couple, Mr. and Mrs. Swenson. Peg fell in love with their new home the instant she saw it and was entirely willing to become the Swensons' little girl, but Danny, even though he was relieved and grateful to the Swensons for taking them in, he still could not bear the thought to being away from his real family. One by one, each Kelly child writes to their mother and siblings, bubbling about their new homes and kind foster parents, all except Danny; he cannot bring himself to write a single word. A letter would finalize everything. He would no longer be a Kelly child; he would belong to the Swensons. He couldn't let that happen.

Another wonderful book by Joan Lowery Nixon. Through all her books, Nixon has used roughly the same formula set against the backdrop of the Wild West, and yet each book is its own story, pulling in different aspects of the West that were previously unseen. This book is no exception; though slower paced and less thrilling than the last few books, the story will still have you turning pages till the end. I believe that this book is good for all ages; no age limit need apply.

*****
RJ

February 20, 2017

The King's FIfth

The King's Fifth by Scott O'Dell is an adventure, travel, and historical fiction book set in the time of the conquistadors. There is a new world full of adventure, mystery, and maybe gold. There are also many who dared to take it.

Esteban de Sandoval sits in the impregnable prison of San Juan de Ulua. He looks up at the stars and thinks of when he was free, on a gold hunt in the New World. The court will soon pass sentence. But, do they want him convicted or do they simply wish for the gold which Sandoval has hidden somewhere across the sea?

I would give this book four out of five stars, because I really got into it in the second half. However, the first half seems to structurally push you away with very long drawn out speeches of the characters. Still a wonderful read. You just have to actually concentrate on the book to read it.

*****
AK

February 8, 2017

In the Face of Danger

In 1988, Joan Lowery Nixon sat down and penned the Orphan Train series, a collection of novels following the journey of the six Kelly children. These children had lived a happy life in New York City and, though they were very poor, they didn't mind one bit. They had a mother who loved them, a roof over their heads, and most of all they had each other; their lives could not have been more perfect. None of the Kelly children expected their lives to change, at least not as drastically as it had, but when Mike, the third Kelly child, was caught pick-pocketing, change was inevitable. Now sent west to find better homes for themselves, the Kelly children are split up and are forced to begin a new life far way from everything that they cared about. Though each child must face his or her own fear in their new homes, Megan is possibly the one with the most to fear. Will she be able to overcome it in this, her story, In the Face of Danger?

Megan had never been more frightened in her life; the gypsy woman had reached out with her twisted old hand and had grabbed Megan's wrist so hard that it hurt. Looking into her trembling palm, the old woman had sneered and despite the shouts and broom Ma had hurled at her, said, "Bad penny. Bad luck will always fall on you and yours." That gypsy curse had terrified Megan every day since then; was she really a bad penny, an ill luck omen? Was it a coincidence or was it her fault that Da had died? Was it her fault or Mike's that the family had been separated and sent away? Was it all part of the curse? And now that Megan had a new family, would the curse continue to haunt her; would she bring bad luck to this new family too?

Another wonderful book from accomplished author Joan Lowery Nixon. Though more slowly paced than the last two, In the Face of Danger is still excellent and another winner for the Orphan Train series. Without a doubt another well written story that will captivate both adults and kids. I do not feel the need for an age limit on this book; just be informed that in one chapter the family dog is killed. Use your own discretion when reading the description of that death to children.

*****
RJ

January 20, 2017

Caught in the Act

Francis Mary, Megan, Mike, Danny, Peg, and little Petey. These were the Kelly children, sent west on the orphan train in hopes of finding a better life. Though each child's individual story is as exciting and page turning as the next, this, the story before you, is perhaps the one that contains the most mystery and excitement, if not danger. In this, the second book in the "Orphan Train" series by Joan Lowery Nixon, we follow young Mike Kelly after his trip west as he beings to create a new life for himself. But, though he tries his best, his life does not go the way he planned.

From the very first time Mike laid eyes on the Friedrichs, he knew he didn't want to be adopted by them: the way Mr. Friedrich scowled at him, the way Mrs. Friedrich hung behind her husband whimpering at the slightest word from him, and Gunther, the paunchy, smirking boy who must have been the Friedrichs' son. They all just looked mean and Mike didn't like them. But when Mike was picked by the Friedrichs, he was determined to make the best of his situation even if it meant following Mr. Friedrich's strict rules and cow-towing to Gunther. Mike was determined to make this opportunity work; that's what Ma would want him to do. But when Mr. Friedrich starts to become more and more abusive, when Gunther's smirk begins to look more evil then usual, and when his new friend, Ruben, goes missing, Mike begins to suspect and fear the worst. Is it all his imagination or is he truly in as much danger as he imagines?

This was an excellent book, adding onto the lost Old West that Joan Lowery Nixon portrayed in the last book. We now see a similar world of ranches, horses, and trains, but from a slightly different angle. Nixon has done an outstanding job of pulling the characters right off the page to a point where you care, feel, and hurt for these people. This is a book that is worthy of an age limit; I recommend that eight and up read this book. It's very historically accurate, but also contains a few chapters describing child abuse. Be cautious when letting your child read this, but all together an excellent book that children and adults can both enjoy, another notch on Nixon's gun.

*****
RJ

January 4, 2017

The Blue Sword

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley is the sequel to The Hero and the Crown. The Blue Sword is a fantasy book set in the land of Damar at least 100 years after Princess Aerin. Here exists a state of cold war, until the abduction.

Harry Crew waits miserably in the grand hall for breakfast. She has just arrived in the Outlander city and now lives with the elderly Sir Charles and Lady Amelia, who insist that she do no work. She is dreadfully bored. But when King Corlath of the Damarian Hills comes for negotiations, Harry's life is about to change forever.

Although I liked this book, I preferred The Hero and the Crown more. This is because I feel that there was a lack of character depth in this book, but it is an otherwise excellent and action packed book for all ages.

*****
AK

December 2, 2016

Indio

Long ago when the new world had just been discovered, there lived a tribe of Indians; they made their homes among the canyons and brush of the Midwest and Mexico, and they prospered. Babies were born, grew up, married. The married became old and died; such was the life of the Midwest Indians. That peaceful life was shattered, through, when in the late 1500's pale visitors riding great antlerless deer began to explore the West. These white men, also known as Conquistadors, exploited the land they traveled through, leaving it a barren wasteland, leaving the Indians nothing. This is the story of the Midwest Indians - their lives before the white man, the bitter slavery that followed, and the creation of the Mexican culture. This is the story contained in the pages of Indio by Sherry Garland.

Ipa-tah-chi loved her village very much - the bubbling stream, the rustling corn, the dusty canyon wall which she loved to climb. But most of all Ipa loved the people who lived in the village - Grandmother, her brothers Kadoh and Ximi, and her cousin Xucate. She never wanted anything to change, but like a sudden rainstorm that destroys the corn, change did come. The Spanish Conquistadors swooped down upon the village and wreaked havoc, taking prisoner Ipa, Xucate, and young Kadoh. The three have no idea what awaits them or where the Spaniards are taking them; they only know it must be worse than death. Ipa prays to the panther god for help, but none comes; perhaps there is only one true god, as the Spanish monks say, a God who hears her. Does he hear her now?

This was an excellent book, but I would recommend that only age 13+ read it; there are very violent scenes, as well as graphic descriptions of child birthing. I would recommend that parents pre-read this book first to see if they're all right with their teenagers reading the material. Sherry Garland has created a wonderful story full of historical accuracy, heart warming moments, and gut-punching ones. Quite an excellent story, a thrill to read.

*****
RJ

November 11, 2016

Three Years Among the Comanches

I do not usually read westerns, but I decided to try this genre for a change. I settled on Three Years Among the Comanches by Nelson Lee. It tells the account of the author before and after being captured by the Comanche Indians; at the time, Lee was working as a Texas Ranger. In his narrative, Lee describes life in an Indian village with a raw truth, giving out the smallest details of every activity. I found that Nelson Lee had a tendency to ramble on, and I do not particularly like that kind of writing.

Nelson Lee was living a normal yet adventurous life; working for the Rangers required him to always be on the move, but Lee didn't mind. For years, Lee lived this life, traveling from place to place, fighting off Indians and protecting the local settlers. The threat of Indian attack was always on everyone's mind, but with the ever-vigilant Rangers on guard, the fear was minimal. But what happens when the Rangers can't even protect their own? Lee never expected that his companions and he would be attacked by Indians, but they were and in one swift, cruel blow, Lee's companions were either dead or captured and he himself was dragged off as a hostage. Under normal circumstaces, Lee would have been killed immediately, but by the grace of God he possesses the means to protect and maybe even free himself: a small silver watch that he bought only days before his capture. The trinket may intrigue the natives for a short time, but will it keep them transfixed long enough for escape to present itself?

I strongly advise parents to put an age limit on this book, 10 at least. This book contains several accounts of prisoner torture and mass killings, as well as some outright disturbing moments that shocked even me. This was not the best book I have ever reviewed; it tends to take on the form of a history rather than a story. Nelson Lee claims this is a true-to-life account of his life; whether it is or not, this is a pretty good book that I think fans of westerns will enjoy.

*****
RJ

October 28, 2016

The Outlaws of Sherwood

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley is a historical fiction book set in Merry Old England. The reigning monarch is Richard the Lionheart, but while he fights the Crusades, England is a bit run down.

Robin is a young Saxon. He lives under the heavy taxation demanded by the greedy Norman, Sheriff of Nottingham, who harbors a hatred toward Robin because the sheriff courted Robin's mother and lost her to another man. Robin's parents have died, and he is a king's forester. But little does he know what is to happen as he makes his way to the Nottingham Fair.

This was a delightfully written book of adventure. There were parts of the book that tended to drone on with too much detail. I recommend this book to any age so long as the reader is patient.

*****
AK

October 27, 2016

Love is Eternal

Right off the bat, I will say that history buffs will love Love is Eternal by Irving Stone. The story goes through the lives of Abraham and Mary Lincoln with stunning accuracy. For those who prefer fiction, this book also creates fictional accounts of the Lincolns' lesser known personal lives, pulling the reader into their struggles and fears as well as their joys. These two literary genres are completely different, but Irving Stone, like the wonderful writer he is, weaves the two genres together perfectly into a marvelous story based on the Lincolns. Please note that this book is very long and has been broken down into eight smaller books for easier reading.

Mary Todd never expected her life to turn out the way it did; after being the first female graduate of a completely male dominated school, Mary wasn't sure where her life would take her. As was common of the Todd women, she traveled to Springfield in hopes of finding a husband like her two older sisters had. All the Todd women had married respectable doctors of lawyers, so Mary was expected to do the same. What would her family do if they knew what sort of man she was attracted to? He was a tall, gangly young lawyer who had descended into her life quite literally from heaven, dropping through a trap door of the courthouse. He had been raised in the backwoods and had only had a year or two of school learning. He was completely different from any man Mary had ever met, which made him oddly appealing. And his name was Abraham Lincoln. Mary and Abraham seemed to have a doomed love from the start, and they were complete opposites. Were they too different for love?

Irving Stone has outdone himself with this stupendous piece of literature, an instant classic. A treat for young and old alike, no matter your opinion of historical fiction or your views on the Lincolns, you cannot afford to miss this novel. I would not recommend this book to children under 10, as the story ends tragically (Abraham's death), which younger children might find distressing. Also, the story itself revolves around the tension and stress of the presidency, and mild profanity is used a few times. In my opinion, that is a little heavy for children under 10.

*****
RJ

October 25, 2016

The Serpent Never Sleeps

From the moment I picked up The Serpent Never Sleeps by Scott O'Dell, I was hooked. From the very first page, I began to care about the characters; big or small, they all played a vital role in this wildly creative retelling of the early Jamestown settlers. Scott O'Dell does an excellent job of weaving fictional characters into historic events, leaving no noticeable seam. By the end of the book, I felt as if I had traveled with these beloved characters and seen the sights they saw. I commend Scott O'Dell for his ability to draw the reader into his story effortlessly.

Serena Lynn had a life that anyone would envy; she had a high position in Foxcroft Castle, a brother who cared very much for her, a mistress that was not too sweet but not altogether sour, and she had Anthony Foxcroft. This dashing young man had stolen Serena's heart since she had known him and he seemed to return the affection. But Serena's perfect life would be shattered - shattered by her own doing. When she had met King James and he had given her his serpent ring, he had said it would protect her from all kinds of danger; knowing this, Serena had no fear of the unknown when she had followed Anthony to America after he was accused of murder. The king had said the ring would protect her from physical harm but not emotional; this became all too real on the journey over the sea. In the new world, Serena would face every kind of peril. Would the ring protect her or would the king's promise turn out to be a lie?

This was a wonderfully compelling book full of characters that touched my heart and made an imprint. Scott O'Dell has proven to me that he is a noteworthy writer and I will be looking for more books under his name. I would recommend an age limit on this book of seven and up, though. There are a few instances of witchcraft and sorcery, as well as a few harsh realities. I will, though. be recommending this book to those in the appropriate age group. A worthwhile read, not to be missed.

*****
RJ

October 21, 2016

The Hero and the Crown

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley is a fantasy book set in the medieval land of Damar, where dragons, wizards, and witches lurk.

Princess Aerin, who is the only child of Arlbeth, King of Damar, is also the daughter of a woman from the north. All Demar knows the story of how the witchwoman enspelled the king into marrying her, and after having a daughter instead of a son, died of a broken heart. Because of this Aerin grows up wild: curing animals, fighting dragons, learning to fence. But now she must put her skills to the test as the Great Dragon awakes.

I would probably recommend this book to anyone 11 and up due to vivid and painful descriptions. McKinley is a wonderful author; I couldn't put this book down.

*****
AK

September 22, 2016

The President's Lady

The President's Lady is an exciting romantic drama set against the explosive mess that is politics. Irving Stone has brought to light a wonderful story of a woman who only wanted to be loved in a world that hated her, and whose husband was continuously dragged away into politics. The story also shows the life of Andrew Jackson, a man who did not know what he wanted, causing him to always fall into failure. But when he finally discovers what he wants, he may have to sacrifice his wife to gain it. 

It is a time of frontiersmen, Indians and survival. And Rachel Roberts is right in the middle of it all with her own battles to win - but not the kind of battles you win with a gun. Lewis Roberts, Rachel's husband, is an alcohol-abusing man with an insanely jealous nature. As a result, poor Rachel is subject to Lewis' slanderous remarks on her character and even violence. Rachel cannot see any way her life could improve, but then on a trip to her family home, she meets a young man who is willing to rescue her from her husband. Andrew Jackson is a dashing young frontiersman with vastly unpopular ideas, but Rachel finds herself attracted to this man. Yet no matter how mush they love each other, the lives of Andrew and Rachel Jackson will always be full of slander. Is their love enough to protect from the storm? 

This was a wonderfully haunting story. Rachel Jackson is perhaps the most misunderstood woman in American history, and Irving Stone brings her story to life through wonderfully worded paragraphs that you will remember for a long time. I would suggest that children under ten not read this story due to some rather harsh allegations against Rachel Jackson later in the book. Many people were very suspicious of the Jacksons, and a few even accused Rachel of being and adulteress. I believe children under ten do not need to be burdened with those hateful allegations. This is a very good book that you will enjoy long after you close the back cover.

*****
RJ

August 25, 2016

Becoming Naomi Leon

Becoming Naomi Leon is another book by Pam Munoz Ryan. It is set in the tiny trailer park of Avocado Acres, located in the small town of Lemon Tree. Naomi's life is perfect, minus a few boys who make fun of her name, until one night when a red car pulls up to the trailer.

Naomi Soledead Leon Outlaw has lived with Gram and her brother Owen for about ten years; her father is somewhere in Mexico and no one knows where her mother is. Until that night. "Who could be at the door at this hour?" they all wondered. And there she stood, Naomi's mother, herself.

Personally I thought this was the best book by Pam Munoz Ryan, because she really added depth and feeling to her characters. I read the whole book in about a week. It was that good! Interestingly and unlike her other books, I would not recommend this book to anyone under 12, due to Naomi's mother being an alcoholic as the main plot point in this story.

*****
AK

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo is a fantasy book set in the medieval times, where a very unlikely hero must save an entire kingdom and its princess.

Despereaux Tilling has always been different, ever since he was born with his eyes open. Strangely enough, when normal four-ounce mice were nibbling on book pages, the two-ounce Despereaux was reading them! Because of all these things, Despereaux is destined to encounter rats, a king, a cauliflower-eared serving girl, and most of all, the princess.

I loved this book because, even though it is mostly geared toward elementary students, I truly believe that anyone who reads it will fall in love with the characters and adventure that DiC
amillo has so wonderfully composed.

*****
AK

July 1, 2016

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising is a historical fiction book by Pam Munoz Ryan. It is set a little before the Great Depression and travels from El Rancho de las Rosas, in Mexico, to a company work camp in California, where a little queen must do for herself.

Esperanza Ortega has everything she could ever want: a loving papa, a beautiful mama, a sweet abuelita, a big house, fancy dresses, and many servants. But when tragedy strikes and she and mama are left penniless, there is only one thing to do.

Interestingly, this story was based on Pam Munoz Ryan's grandmother, who was even named Esperanza. I loved this book because of the captivating way it was told. I would probably recommend this book to anyone because it is a delightful and suspenseful story.

*****
AK

June 10, 2016

Beauty

Beauty is a stand-alone book by Robin McKinley. It is set in about the mid 1700's in the quiet little town of Blue Hill. But, although the town lies peacefully, the forest beyond is a completely different story.

Beauty is a young girl who hates her nickname because she totally disagrees with it. Her general outlook is, "I am short and plain," Then, when her father returns from a trip with the horrible tale of finding a castle and a beast, Beauty must go to save her father's life.

I couldn't put this book down. It gives a wonderful new twist to the timeless story of Beauty and the Beast. I would recommend this book to anyone age 11 and up, or to anyone who is up to reading 40-page chapters.

*****
AK

May 31, 2016

Return to the Island

Return to the Island is the third and last book in Gloria Whelen's historical fiction series Once on This Island.  It is set on Michilamackinac Island, where Mary O'Shea must make a life changing decision.

Mary is back on her island. But now that she is back at the place she missed in London, she now misses London. Then, when someone who she never expected to see again appears outside her door, asks her a question, and is overheard, it seems Mary's world is going to pieces.

This book had a wonderful way of wrapping up all the loose ends from the other books, and I would probably recommend it to anyone seven and up because of its easy yet interesting read.


*****
AK

Farewell to the Island

Farewell to The Island is the sequel to Gloria Whelen's Once on This Island. This is a historical fiction and travel book that jumps from beautiful Michilimackinac Island to high class London, England, where a country girl would not fit in.

The War of 1812 had been over for a few months when Mary O'Shea's sister Angelique Cunningham, who is married, writes an invitation for Mary to visit her in England. "It  will only only be for a visit," Mary tells herself as the schooner drifts farther and farther from the island. But, when she meets seaman James Lindsay, who suddenly proposes, will it truly be just a visit?

I loved this book because of the way the characters were described. It is such clear description that it's like you know them. Honestly this book could be read by anyone over seven; it is such a delightful story that really captures the reader's attention.

*****
AK

May 18, 2016

The Doctor's Lady

The Doctor's Lady is a stand alone historical fiction book by Jody Hedlund. This book travels from Angelica, New York, to the wilderness of the Oregon Territory, where a fine lady must learn the dangers that lurk outside the parlor door.

Lovely Priscilla White could hardly believe the letter she held in her hand. The mission board had declared that she must marry before she could go to India as a missionary. Marriage was hardly an option, thought Priscilla, as the reminder of an empty womb cut deeply to her heart. But when Dr. Eli Earnest who was faced with Priscilla's same problem, comes to town with the desire to open a clinic in Oregon Territory, what will happen?

I would recommend this book to anyone 11 and up because of its dramatic descriptions. I liked this book because, as well as the drama, heartache,and romance, there was the continual reminder that no one is perfect, and we must all lay ourselves before God.


*****
AK