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

May 11, 2016

Montezuma's Daughter

Montezuma's Daughter by Henry Rider Haggard is not widely known, but it has the potential to be a classic. Written through the eyes of a young man whom fate has wronged, the story is one of revenge, lost and current love, and the fall of an empire. The writing has a poetic ring and flows in old English. Never has there been a story with the power of this one, just as there was never and shall never be an empire like the Aztecs. Set in the very ancient and crumbling city of Montezuma, this story will take you captive.

Young Thomas Wingfield never thought his life would turn out the way it did. As a very young man, he finds himself pursuing a man halfway around the world. Determined to bring this murderer to justice Thomas leaves behind his love, family, and everything familiar to travel to a truly savage country. South America is a wild, untamed vastness in which no Englishman has ever walked. And thrown into this wilderness Thomas must survive much hardship and even the threat of death, not only from the elements but also the savage Aztecs. These people were once the crow jewel of South America, but they were destroyed, and Thomas will be there to witness their end. But will he survive to tell about it?

This is a well written story with excellent dialogue and unforgettable characters that will touch your heart forever, just as they touched Thomas. I would recommend that only older students read this book because there are chapters that contain bloody, descriptive violence. And a few pagan worship scenes. Older students who do read this should know a little history about the Aztecs before starting so they will know a bit about the Aztecs beliefs and customs, as well as their end; the story is very historically accurate. This an all together excellent read, and instant classic.

*****
RJ

April 15, 2016

Once on This Island

Once on This Island is a historical fiction book by Gloria Whelan. It is set in 1812 on Michilimackinac Island, where two sisters who are totally different must band together and fight.

Young Mary O'Shea believes her life is the best because of her wonderful family, their lovely farm, and their friendly neighbors. But when the sounds of marching and cannon fire stalk their island, Mary's father must leave, and she and her sister Angelique must manage the farm. It seems like her world is crumbling.

I enjoyed this book because it showed both sides of the War of 1812. I would probably recommend this book to anyone eight and up, because, although there is conflict, nothing could really be construed as frightening or inappropriate.

*****
AK

April 5, 2016

Shadow Hawk

Shadow Hawk is a stand alone book by Andre Norton. It is historical fiction set in Egypt in the time of the pharaohs, where a rightful prince works as a lowly captain.

Captain Rahotep has fled from Nubia with his handful of archers because his half-brother, who is king of Nubia, has banished him. Fortunately, he is able to gain a position as captain in Egypt. But when he is accused of trying to assassinate the pharaoh and thrown in jail, it seems all hope is lost.

I enjoyed most of this book. However I would say that Andre Norton has a bit of a tendency to monologue. I would say that anyone 13 and up could read Shadow Hawk. It does have longer chapters and longer, less-heard-of words that a younger person might not understand.

*****
AK

Like Gold Refined

Like Gold Refined is the fourth and last book of Janette Oke's A Prairie Legacy series. This book is set six years after A Quiet Strength. It is a wonderful example of the strength God gives us in our troubled times.

Virginia has been married for a few years and has been blessed with four lovely children. It seems life couldn't be better, but when the Lewis' life is once more interrupted by Jenny Woods, who insists on taking them to court, will they make it?

I think this book was the best in the whole series. I couldn't put it down. It was probably because I knew it was the last book and I had to find out the fate of the characters. Anyone who read A Quiet Strength must read Like Gold Refined. It is an amazing story of God's love and grace, which is as pure as gold.

*****
AK

March 31, 2016

Captain, My Captain

Captain, My Captain is a historical fiction novel written by Deborah Meroff. It is set against the colorful background of clipper ships and the California Gold Rush. In their haste to get to California, many clipper ship captains raced their fellow captains. It was a sort of sport but also dead serious; there were many perils on the open sea, especially going round the Horn. Joshua Patten knows this, but pays little mind to it as he races his clipper, the Neptune's Car. Not only does he want to reach California first, but he also wants to beat the record. Is this reckless behavior putting himself, his crew, and his new wife in danger?

Mary was only sixteen when she married Joshua Patten. She barely knew him before he dragged her off to make a voyage with him. Telling the story in her own words, Mary recounts the adventures of their first and second voyages. She also tells of her own struggles with boredom, loneliness, and fear. But as she and Joshua try to see eye to eye and just can't seem to make it work, both of them wonder if they made a mistake. Will this young couple find a way to keep their marriage in tact; will the crew trust a woman who is meant to be bad luck; and will the Neptune's Car round the Horn safely?

This is a wonderfully written book, giving detailed description of clipper ships in that era. I would recommend having only ten and up read this book due to tense storm scenes and a very heart- wrenching scene near the end. Please note, you may want to do a little research on 18th century clipper ships due to vivid descriptions of some of the rigging and top sails. This book has a wonderful way of twisting a salvation story into one of a ship rounding the Horn; it shows that God must be the captain of your life or you will surely sink.

*****
RJ

March 28, 2016

A Quiet Strength

A Quiet Strength is the third of Janette Oke's A Prairie Legacy series. It is set a little before The Great Depression, in a small town where a most unusual family comes together.

It hardly seemed possible to Virginia; she is married. She didn't feel married. Why must she share her husband with his aging grandmother? When will she have her husband to herself? This is a difficult time for Virginia, but when Jenny Woods comes to town with her daughter, who is only three, Virginia must put her own wants aside, take on more responsibility, and trust God.

I loved this book because it is a true testimony of how God gives us patience and strength that we couldn't have on our own. I would recommend this book to anyone ten and up due to the graphic description of Jenny Wood's lifestyle.

*****
AK

March 4, 2016

A Searching Heart

A Searching Heart is the second book in Janette Oke's  A Prairie Legacy series. This book is set a little before the Great Depression. It is a reminder that things don't always turn out as planned.

Virginia Simson is excitedly nearing graduation and preparing to join her boyfriend at college. But when her sister takes to her bed and Virginia is needed more than ever, which choice will she take: college or family? And what will happen when her future seems to read spinsterhood?

I enjoyed this book because of a character's conversion to Christianity. I would probably recommend it to ages 10 and up, because of some very graphic scenes that could be frightening.

*****
AK

February 23, 2016

The King's Fifth

Set against the exciting backdrop of the Spanish Conquistadors and their quest for land and gold, The King's Fifth takes us on an incredible journey to the uncharted corners of the map. The story is told through the memories of one young man whose fate became entangled with six others on the journey of a lifetime.

Esteban de Sandoval was just a young man trying to make a living. But his life changed drastically the day he met Captain Mendoza, a power hungry man with an insane lust for gold. Together the two land on the sandy beach of western Mexico. With five others, they travel the land in search of gold and riches; all the while, Sandoval maps out the country. But with winter coming and tempers rising, will this small band of explorers learn to survive together or will they kill each other before the snow ever flies? And what will become of the gold?

The King's Fifth is and excellant book, with wonderful descriptions of the country and its native people. Scott O'Dell has authored many fine books, but this one is steadily climbing to the top of this reviewer's list. I would suggest that younger readers research the history of the conquistadors before they read this book. There are many cases of brutality against the Indians in this story and young readers should know a bit about the bloody history of the conquistadors before reading The King's Fifth.

*****
RJ

February 17, 2016

The Tender Years

The Tender Years is the first in the four-book A Prairie Legacy series by Janette Oke. This book returns to the little town of the Love Comes Softly series. This is the story of  a young girl who is stuck between going with the popular crowd or standing firm in God.

Virginia Simpson is the daughter of Drew and Belinda Davis and the granddaughter of Clark and Marty. When Jenny Wood comes to town and picks Virginia for a friend, Virginia is ecstatic. But is this the crowd she should be with? And what will happen after a tragic accident that will force Virginia to grow up quickly?

I loved this book because, although it had some of the same wonderful characters like Clark and Marty Davis, there were also new arrivals. I plan to read the rest of the series. I would recommend this book for ages 10 and up due to the implications of swearing
by certain characters.

*****
AK

January 27, 2016

Riding Freedom

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan is a biography with a bit of fiction in it. This story starts in New Hampshire in about 1814 and ends in California in the 1850's. This is an incredible true story of a girl who was not afraid of what she wanted.

When young Charlotte's only friend at the orphanage is adopted and Charlotte is unfortunately barred from the stables, she makes up her mind to run. Where, how, and when are no longer questions; she has to run free.

I like this book as a wonderful story of strength and endurance, but when I found out the woman who had this strength was real, I loved it that much more. I would probably recommend this book to anyone because it is an easy read yet suspenseful. I believe anyone could enjoy it. I have not read any more books by Pam Munoz Ryan, but she did such a great job on this book, I would definitely read more.

*****
AK

January 25, 2016

Song for a Dark Queen

Song for a Dark Queen by Rosemary Sutcliff is a historical fiction book about a brave queen who risked everything for freedom. Set against the backdrop of the Roman Empire under one of its most tyrannical rulers, this story tells how English history will never be the same. Rome seeks to envelope the whole world into its empire and no one dares to oppose them, except Queen Boudicca of Britain. Will this Dark Queen and her army of freedom fighters stand their ground in the face of Rome?

Ever since Boudicca was a child, she dreamed of wielding a magnificent sword in battle and being the hero of a victory song. But her life has not gone according to her dreams. Due to a cruel twist of fate, Boudicca must put aside her girlhood fancy and become the ruler of the Horse People. Being the queen has many challenges; she has the power to send men into battle or to surrender, but will she use her power correctly? With the Roman hand weighing ever heavier on the Horse People, Boudicca knows she must do something. But does she have the strength to do so?

This is an excellent novel not to be missed. Rosemary Sutcliff uses exciting words and expertly woven sentences to tell the story of the Dark Queen through the eyes of one of Boudicca's closest friends. I would suggest that younger children wait to read this till they're older, for there are battles described in detail and a few gory descriptions. Song for a Dark Queen is a wonderful story - one of love, courage, and - most important - freedom. It should be a classic.

*****
RJ


January 15, 2016

The Sign of the Beaver

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth Speare is an amazing adventure book set in the wilderness of Maine. This book is a wonderful tale of how true friendship is not bound by the color of someone's skin.

Matt, who is only 12 years old, has been left alone in the wilderness of Maine to care for the cabin and property while his father goes back to Quincy, Massachusetts, to fetch the family. During his father's absence, Matt will encounter a shifty "explorer," swarming bees, and Indians! Matt strikes a deal with the Indians and along the way gains their respect. So when his father is months late, will he take the Indians up on a scintillating offer?

I loved this book because of its balance of adventure with comedy in certain places. I would probably recommend this book to anyone 10 and up due to some very illustrative writing that might prove frightening to younger readers.

*****
AK

January 13, 2016

Love Finds a Home

Love Finds a Home is the eighth, and last, book of the Love Comes Softly series by Janette Oke. This book switches from Boston to a little prairie town, and back, where Belinda Davis is on her own. Or is she?

The story starts in Boston, where Belinda is now quite accustomed to luxuries like indoor plumbing and her own room. But, naturally, although her wealthy employer is almost family, she wishes to see her own family. However, when she finds herself very rich, no longer needed, and free to go home, who does she meet at the law office that will change her life?

I love this book just as all the others because, like all her other books, Janette Oke can always bring out something new from the same characters. Interestingly, I would not put an age limit on this delightful book, which shows God brings everything in its time.

*****
AK

January 11, 2016

In Mozart's Shadow

In Mozart's Shadow, written by Carolyn Meyer, is a trip into history where we can see the home life of young Mozart, a "wonder child" who had an amazing musical talent. Told through the eyes of his older sister, Nannerl, we follow the Mozart family across Europe as it gives performances for royalty. "The Wundaerkinds" (Wonder Children) are a sensation, but beneath their famous story is another tale to be told.

Nannerl, a budding harpsicord musician, loves to perform; the applause makes her fingers tingle. But she always seems to be overshadowed by her overly talented brother. Wolferl  has the ability to compose elaborate pieces and perform applause-winning tricks on the keyboard. As the Wonder Children grow older, their fame begins to slip away but their father Leopold is determined that Wolferl will have a brilliant career. Poor Nannerl; will she be left in the background?

This is and excellent book - another great book by Carolyn Meyer. Using plain wording with a dramatic flair, Meyer paints the untold story of Nannerl, the musician lost to the world, lost in Mozart's shadow. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves history, music, or reading in general. This is a wonderful story that no one should pass by.

*****
RJ

November 25, 2015

Love Takes Wing

Love Takes Wing is the seventh book in the Love Comes Softly series by Janette Oke and, although this book has the same characters as Love's Unfolding Dream, in the beginning of the story, it takes a drastic switch to the bustling city of Boston in the 19th century where a young woman must fight to keep her faith.

This story starts when young Belinda Davis, who is an established nurse, becomes lonely in the little town because she has lost both her nieces to the West. During this time, a woman from Boston suffers a stroke while on a train out West and Belinda becomes her nurse. But when Belinda finds herself  in a love triangle, will she take the woman up on an incredible offer?

I enjoyed this book immensely because it was a refreshing change of scenery while still keeping to the basic message of Janette Oke's other books. I would probably recommend this book to anyone eight and older because this is a delightful story with nothing to ward against. As usual, Janette Oke will capture the reader with this soul-stirring story of God's graciousness.

*****
AK

November 17, 2015

Love's Unfolding Dream

Love's Unfolding Dream is the sixth book in Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series. This story is set in the mid 1800's, and is full of friendship, family, a little romance, and the ongoing message of God's unending love.

This book starts with an introduction to Belinda, who is the surprise child of Clark and Marty Davis. Belinda has a sensitive heart and hates to see anything suffer. Because of her doctor brother, she pursues nursing. But when she helps with an amputation, she wonders if she is truly cut out to be a nurse.

Janette Oke always  surprises me, for although this is the sixth book in the series, it holds all the adventure and thrill of the last five. I would recommend this book for ages 12 and up due to descriptions in certain chapters that make it easy to picture the intensity of an amputation. Naturally, as with all the others, this book is written around God and the grace he shows us.

*****
AK

November 6, 2015

The Sword and the Sundial

In this historical fiction story by Phyllis S. Prokop, we will experience a little bit of everyday life in ancient Judah, a land rampant with idol worship and caught in between two ancient world superpowers, Assyria and Syria. King Ahaz is worried about defending Jerusalem and he calls out to Molech for protection; however,  his son Hezekiah has a much better protection.

Hezekiah has long believed that the God of Isaiah the prophet is real and powerful, but under his father's heavy hand, idols are built around the city and human sacrifices to Molech are a common practice. Then, as the looming Syrians threaten to attack, King Ahaz announces a special sacrifice is to be made. This sacrifice must not be ordinary so it must be of royal blood: Hezekiah's baby brother, Michael! The boy won't let his brother be burned alive so in the dead of  night Hezekiah and his mother slip over the wall with the baby in an attempt to save him.

This was an excellent book, full of Bible history with a good amount of fiction mixed in. I would recommend this book to anyone over ten. The story has just the right balance of drama, history, and even a bit of romance. It is a wonderful story that everyone will enjoy - a story of trust, wrong choices and God's everlasting grace.

*****
RJ

October 27, 2015

Belshazzar: a Tale of the Fall of Babylon

Belshazzar: a tale of the fall of Babylon, is a historical fiction book by William Stearns Davis. It is set in about 700 B.C. in Babylon, where the Jews struggled under the heavy yoke of the king.

This book starts when the envoy of the powerful king Cyrus, Prince Darius, escorts the Princess Atossa, who is the daughter of Cyrus and the woman Darius loves, to be Belshazzar's bride. Because of his deep love for Atossa, Darius swears that he will never let her become the bride of Belshazzar, but complications arise when Darius discovers the ulterior motives of the king.

I would probably recommend this book for ages 12 and up because it is written in an eloquent way that might be hard for younger children to understand. In this book, there are also a few intense parts that may be too much for someone younger than 12. Personally, though, I loved this book because it was a new way of telling the well known Bible story of Belshazzar.

*****
AK