Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Hannah doesn’t think much of the old Crowleigh Lodge her parents rent after their own house is in need of repair. The lodge is small and some rooms are closed off from storm damage or have been sealed off over the years. When it rains, secrets bubble out giving Hannah strange dreams of leaves.

In the church yard Hannah finds the grave of the girl who lived in Crowleigh Lodge a hundred years ago and it’s the very month that she died. As if to celebrate the anniversary, weird things begin to happen in the house. Hannah starts to wonder who killed Maise and why is she trying to contact Hannah?

This is part mystery and part ghost story. Both worked. The story lingered with me, something many books don’t. I did wish the author included an Afterward to explain what might be true in the story and what not and just to explain a few things.

I did have to wonder why anyone would rent a house with a damaged room, but that’s only the adult in me and I’m sure there are reasonable explanations.

There’s another story with Hannah, which I’d love to read, but I haven’t been able to find it. If you read this book, maybe you can find the other.


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Blackout! Twelve-year-old Christopher Nichols is thinking party. Celebrate the loss of contact with Earth as Perses slides behind the back side of the sun. He and his friends will celebrate the event and have fun, lots of fun. But, that’s not how it ends up. Instead, Christopher and a few others end up deep in the mines, hiding, surviving, from an unseen enemy.

Another great science-fiction story. It’s set on the planetoid Perses. There’s a good back story about how it got into Earth’s orbit and humans started mining it. There are a number of sad elements I didn’t particularly like, but then I’m the one who reads the back pages of an animal story to make sure no animals die particularly the main one.

This fast paced story has a great twist revealed midway. It’s first in a series, which made me go ‘aaaaargh’ at the end because of the cliff hanger ending. Can’t wait for the next installment.


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Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong has a plan. She’s going to St. Claire’s School for Girls. It’s the first step in getting wealthy. In the year 1906, however, the idea of anyone from Chinatown entering such an institution is ludicrous. The Chinese, nevermind if they were born in America or not, are second hand citizens to be despised and tormented. But Mercy is going to that school and wrangles a deal with one of the board members. She’ll have to room with the daughter someone who hates her, but she can live with that. She has a plan and she’ll follow it.Nature makes a mockery of it when the April 18th earthquake strikes and Mercy could lose everything she worked for in order to become successful.

I have read quite a number of books on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and this is one of the top ones. There’s humor, a bit of romance, trauma, and drama. It introduces a different angle by making the main character Chinese America. By happenstance I’d read a book a few weeks earlier on the plague in San Francisco and that was mentioned in the book. For those wondering, yes, the black plague really did kill a few people in San Francisco in the 1900’s.

Mercy is a strong character, not daunted by little things like trying to conduct a tea ceremony without having a clue how it’s done. Even with her own sorrows she manages to cheer others up. I found it a positive book.

There’s some historical notes by the author to give more information. While interesting there could be more so why not check out a companion book about the earthquake and Chinatown?

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Thirteen-year-old Bart spends his time trying not to be the boy on the bottom, the one bullied. He’s working on giving his first punch in boxing class. He’d like to find his father and doesn’t want anyone to know about his mother and home life. His biggest secret – he loves opera. This last one he manages to tell a school friend, the pretty Ada. She can’t keep a secret to save her life. Soon the whole school knows about Bart’s hefty mom and that he lives in public housing with drug addicts. She’s also got him signed up for the summer show. If that’s not bad enough, his mother is hospitalized.

Despite everything this is an optimistic book about an upbeat boy. His life is hard, yet he keeps going. It’s translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson who’s done a marvelous job. Not that I can compare it with the original version, but it’s beautifully written. My hat is off who can do this.

I love reading books by authors from other countries, especially children’s books. You really can a feeling for their country foreign eyes can give. This is the second book I’ve read from Norway. I’m surprised to see the same problems in the U.S. are in Norway. Somehow one gets the idea it’s better in certain other countries and it’s really not. Just different.

Another thing I liked was Bart’s love of opera. I don’t particularly care for it myself although I can listen to operettas without wanting to launch over and switch to another channel. It was refreshing to read of someone who likes a genre others, peers, would not.

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Those of you who have read past posts may recall I’ve been searching for a book to help me hone my drawing skills. This is another good one that I’ve managed to find. It’s a great companion to You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler.

How to Draw Cool Stuff is the resource I wish I had when my principal came to me and told me I had to find lessons for the art class because we didn’t have an art teacher and wouldn’t be getting one. Some of the lessons in the last chapter would have enticed most of the kids to get drawing and this is a class where they put students because they don’t have anywhere else to put them.  Flaming basketballs and skulls would have been right down their alley.

Catherine Holmes starts with the basics – cubes, circles, pyramids, and cylinders. I’m having a hard time with the latter and am drawing cylinders and ovals on scraps of paper trying to get them right. I even went to Michael’s thinking to get a template for eclipses. The $12.99 price tag quickly changed my mind.

Flipping through the book one might think the lessons are too hard, but I was amazed at how some of mine turned out after following the directions. My foreshortened person looks amazing! Seriously I thought the lesson was beyond me.

Ms. Holmes has a second book, How to Draw Cool Stuff: Shading, Textures, and Optical Illusions and there are youtube videos too. If you want to learn to draw of you want to your child(ren) and students to draw, these are the books to get. (As well as the Kistler book.)

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In India, in the year 2054 there are five males for every female. Every couple is allowed only one child. Most want a boy. In a new country, Koyanager, formed by a woman, reforms are enacted. Instead of only the rich buying a bride, there would be a trial of tests. Every boy has a chance to win a bride.

Sudasa, one of those potential brides to be won has to wonder exactly how fair these tests are, especially considering her cousin is in the group competing for her. She doesn’t want to marry, but, 5 to 1, the men need wives. Studying the contestants, she finds that Number Five doesn’t want to be a husband and his family wants him to fail.

This is told in alternate voices of Sudasa and Contestant Number Five which allows the reader to see both points of view of the situation the country finds itself in. It’s in verse. I’m not a fan of this, but once I tell myself not to be silly and ignore it, I enjoyed the story.

This was the first dystopic story I’ve read set in India and I was glad to see a change in venue. It gave another cultural view to the others.

This is a story to ponder on. Quite a few discussions can come from it. I’d make it a class set or a book to read for a book club.

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It started with a stowaway. A girl in a basket riding on an ox-cart. Eleven-year-old Chiyo Tamura only wanted to watch out for her sister, to stop her from marrying a widowed, older man. Discovered, caught, she ends up in a girl’s school, miles away from home. It’s an opportunity for an adventurous girl. Having been brought up in a farming community, she’s a little rough around the edges and is asked to use another girl as a role model. That doesn’t go as planned and Chiyo finds herself involved with the Friendship Doll from America project.

This is a companion book with ‘Ship of Dolls’, which I also read. In fact that prompted me to read this one. It’s set in 1927. I can’t say I’ve ever read a book in this time era before that was set in Japan and it gave a peek at the 1920’s Japan with the juxtaposition of traditional Japanese women and flappers.

The exchange of dolls between Japan and the United States really happened. They did so to foster better relations between the two countries. The makers of the Japanese dolls were revered artists, another thing I didn’t know.

I really got the feel of the girl, a farming girl who ends up in Tokyo. She goes from ox-cart to train to automobile. There’s this deliciously evil girl, Hoshi who things being a leader means she’s to bully people. She’ll stop at nothing to get her way.


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