Saturday, May 17, 2014

Spunky and Dunky and Buddy Bear Rescued At Last by Gary C. Newman

This is the story of Spunky and Dunky, two rambunctious monkeys from the wilds of Africa who are orphaned when their parents are kidnapped by bandits and sold to a zoo.

Buddy Bear, sitting in his armchair back in Canada reads the headlines and his heart is moved in such a way that he immediately boards a plane for Africa. If he can "save just one monkey, it will be worth it", he reasons.

Thus begins the long journey to Spunky and Dunky's new home in Canada. Things are not always fine sailing. There are strange new sights and sounds in Canada and a whole different way of living. Spunky and Dunky need to learn to be obedient to their new foster parent, never eat something without asking first and never wander off beyond home's boundaries if they are to keep safe in their new environment.

I thought this was a very cute story along the lines of Curious George. There's a lot of fine lessons taught about obedience and safety, also the love that people can share with others even if they're not related by blood.

The illustrations are also really lovely and well done.

I would recommend this to all children but I think families with adopted or foster children would especially love it.

*I received a free hardback copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

The Lodger by Marie Belloc LowndesA deliciously creepy thriller reminiscent of an old Vincent Price movie. Its the kind of book you read with black and white pictures forming in your mind. Very atmospheric and spooky.

A destitute couple who own a small lodging house (empty of guests) are gradually pawning their belongings to fill their bellies, when out of nowhere there's a knock on the door. A "gentleman" looking for secluded lodging...

Soon, the hackles of suspicion are raised in the mind of the missus. But what to do? If their lodger really is the deranged killer (think Jack the Ripper) then they lose their tenant. Their income. Their food. Better to keep quiet. Keep quiet and wait...

This was really good. (And free on kindle). Its very high in atmosphere but no gore whatsoever. I love how the London fog drifts into the houses, fills hallways and creeps up the stairs...eeeeek!

Why 4 stars?
The middle was a tad repetitive (what if he's the "Avenger"? What should I doooo..??), the motive for the killings was never really explained, and the author was overly fond of the word "deprecating " throughout.

But its a good story. Very good.


SEX: None
VIOLENCE: Virtually none


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Wages Creek by Jeffery Hickey

Ive been given a lot of "read for review " books recently that have been less than stellar. I was actually contemplating giving up the whole thing since I only seem to succeed in injuring feelings with my honesty. But I saw "Wages Creek " in my inbox and the synopsis mentioned ducks; well, my resolve crumbled. I had to read it.

Anyone with pets (I love ducks and have 13 of them) will know the feeling where you start to attribute human-ness to them. You talk to them and they talk back. Yes, they do! Well in this story that is what happens. Sort of.

Jeff and his family are on a camping trip. He comes down with a cold and being a whiner (we know ALL about 'man colds'!) the family leave him to his misery in the tent while they go off for the day. Then.... the ducks appear.

And they talk.
And they understand him.
And they play horseshoes.
And it seems that Jeff, the unwitting bystander is also going to play a part in determining the future happiness of a lovestruck couple...

"Wages Creek "is an audio book and while it can be enjoyed just on its own it is a TON of fun to listen to with all the voices, music and sound effects as you read along. And its pretty hilarious in places! My husband was supposed to be writing emails when I was playing the CD and my daughter and I caught him laughing along. So adults enjoy this book too which is a plus in everyone's book :)

5 Stars easy!

*many thanks to the author for a free book and CD given in exchange for review.

Queen Vernita visits Gator Country by Dawn Menge

This is my first "Queen Vernita " book. I didn't realize it is a series, so if you like her other books you'll probably like this one as well. The series is best suited to ages 9-12.

Apparently, Queen Vernita has friends from all over the world and regularly takes year long trips to visit other cultures. In this book she visits Louisiana in the Southern US. Each month focuses on a different aspect of the local heritage.

FEBRUARY: Paddleboats
MARCH: Mardi Gras
APRIL: Alligators
MAY: The French Quarter
JUNE: The Audubon
JULY: A plantation house
AUGUST: Another plantation house
OCTOBER: Underground Railroad
NOVEMBER: The bayou
DECEMBER: The Indians of the Mardi Gras

The book is very informative and kids can learn a lot. The illustrations are very colorful and I think that would appeal to young ones. It needs to be noted though that the writing itself feels wooden and reads like a bullet list which I felt spoiled the fun. Queen Vernita is a bit of a "Flat Stanley" that we move from scene to scene and prop beside something but who we otherwise have minimal interaction with.

For educational use, I think this is a good book. For entertainment, maybe not so much. Since my nephews love facts and figures I think they will like this, just 'know your audience ' and you'll be all set.

*Many thanks to the author for a free paperback book given in exchange for review.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Scret Kingdom by Michele and Richard Bledsoe

The Secret Kingdom by Michele  Bledsoe

 Now I lay me down to sleep
I read this book and now I'll weep.
All my skin and flesh doth creep
like dungy beetles in a heap.
                    ~ Creeped out reader

This is a very artsy and imaginative book illustrated by a talented artist with accompanying poems created by her husband. It is purportedly a bedtime book for children of all ages. No.

Just. No.

Most definitely NOT for children of all ages. This is the creepiest children's book I have ever read. Speaking as someone who has battled nightmares my whole life (since childhood~ I'm sure Edgar Allen Poe as bedtime stories didn't help) I can honestly say if your child is at all sensitive, do not buy this book! Parents, please. There are some things that should NOT be read before bed (or at all) unless you enjoy being woken at 3 am by crying children.

We have a poem which says,

" There is always a wolf in the story
There is always a snail in the shell
There is always a face in the doorway
There is always a story to tell."

The accompanying illustration is a disembodied head/mask at a window and a dead looking wolf hovering above it.

How about,

"My dog puts his head on the sofa
My dog puts his head on my lap
My dog puts his head on a pillow
When it's time to lay down for a nap."

Sweet, right? Until you see the picture. A dalmation's head. Just. his. head. resting on a shelf of some sort.

And, the elephant picture which my daughter though the creepiest of them all,
"Here comes the elephant around again
With his earthworm friends
He knows, just when
The worms, they end
And he begins"

Accompanying picture: elephant head on a stick in a bucket of worms.

Every animal/creature in this book looks dead and/or is in partial form. Very macabre.

I cannot recommend this to any child. Oh gosh. No.

*I received a free hardcover book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Csardas by Diane Pearson

Csardas by Diane PearsonCsardas (pronounced CHAR-dosh) takes place in Hungary and spans over thirty years and the rise and fall of two generations. The characters endure two world wars and subsequent government changes which affect their standing in the community,their livelihoods, wealth, and eventually their very lives. Over almost 600 pages we watch the three families grow and interact, raise eyebrows, marry (or not), bear children (or not) and finally either live (or not). That's Csardas in a nutshell.

So I really liked this. I didn't feel that the story ever lagged and I was engrossed and emotionally "invested" for several days. Because of the size and scope of the book, it is divided into two parts and the first part was my favorite as it focused on generation one (WW1). While you never 'lose' the first generation as the focus moves to the 2nd (and WW2), I have to say I cared more about the original cast of characters.

As with all of Diane Pearson's stories, the characters are complex and some will disappoint from time to time. I also was upset when some characters were killed off over the course of the book. Can't be helped, I know; but there were times when I was not happy.

I think it's hard with a book of this size to really satisfy the reader when it ends. It seems that any ending will feel abrupt. And it did. For those who need a HEA, I can tell you that it did end relatively happy but I would have loved a bit more in the "warm fuzzy" closure department.Yes, I KNOW this is post WW2 Hungary; but it's also FICTION, so make it up if you have to!

Overall, a very good read and one I would recommend to those who like works by Emma Drummond, Tolstoy, or chunky generational family sagas like "The Forsyte Saga".


SEX: characters do not always make good moral choices but any sex is largely behind closed doors, fade to black or non descriptive.
VIOLENCE: Moderate. Some war imagery is disturbing.
PROFANITY: Mild, a few B's.

MY RATING: Strong PG-13

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Voices Of Summer by Diane Pearson

Voices Of SummerWonderful story! You don't have to love the theater or operetta to enjoy this book but if you do, then it will be more than good. It will be magical.

A struggling new opera house in the Austrian mountains. A tenor with a huge voice and an even bigger chip on his shoulder. A middle aged soprano with the voice of an angel and the body of a bean bag. Two eccentric "direktors" , an austere and secretive costume designer and a medley of fully drawn cast members all weave together into an unforgettably rich tapestry of music, beauty, secrets of the past, pride, bigotry and sabotage.

I'll tell you what I both love and hate Diane Pearson for in equal measures. She never shields her characters. Sometimes, you want to jump into the story and say "No! Don't do it!" but her characters are nothing if not human in every sense. They (some) will make what I consider to be bad choices. They may or may not pay for this. (Just like real life). And others find just one more layer of goodness you never knew they had. But they're never wooden. We learn their past and even if we don't agree with the direction their life is taking, we understand.

I love that not everything is tied into a neat bow at the end. Enough is settled to be truly satisfying but there's always a few threads left trailing to make you wonder over the next few days, "I wonder what so and so is going to do now that..." and then you smack yourself cos its just fiction and of course 'so and so ' isn't going to do anything. 'So and so' doesn't exist. But they could. That's how real they are.


SEX : Behind closed doors
PROFANITY: Mild. B's and D's.