Book Review – Conspiracy 365 – February by Gabrielle Lord

Once again, I found a book in our house to review. One of the boys had it in his room. I think it might have been one he read for sophomore English this year. It looked interesting, but the fact it said February on it made me wonder if I should read it before the January one.

Our book club read a book in a middle of a series for one of our monthly reads. Thunder Bay, by William Kent Krueger, the seventh book in the series. Since we read that one, I have gone back and read most of the series (I finished book #10 and Jim has read through #11) of sixteen. His books could all be read without having read the previous ones. But, if I had read the books in order, I would have learned more about the main character’s back story.

The Bully’s Way is the second book in The Way Series I am preparing for an alpha read in September.  I have heard when writing a series, the author wants to have it fit into the series, but also be readable on its own. So the reader doesn’t have to read the first one to enjoy book two. It is something I will keep in mind as I continue to write the books in The Way series.

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Conspiracy 365 – February

Author

Gabrielle Lord

Type of Book

Middle Grade/YA mystery and suspense. This is the second book of a twelve book series.

Background

Lord is an Australian author known as ‘The Queen of Crime Fiction’.

The books were all published in 2010 and made into a mini television series in 2012 in Australia. Each segment of the television show was aired the first Saturday of each month through out the year. There are a total of seventeen books in the series, with additional storyline played out in the last five books.

Summary of Story

Callum Ormond is a fourteen year old boy on the run from the police and violent gangs. He has to find the answer to some research that his dad was working on before he died and has to stay alive for 365 days to do it. He lives in junk yards and abandoned houses to avoid all of those who are chasing him.

Reactions to book

The story was good. Lord kept the action moving and kept me reading. I found it may have been helpful to read January first to have more continuity in the story line. The book seemed to get a little long in parts, but as a 40 minute tv show, it may not have felt as long. It was probably written that way to get the story into the twelve segments.

If you are interested in picking up a copy of this book or any others in the series, you can find them here Conspiracy 365 Series

To learn more about the author, be sure to check out her website Gabrielle Lord.

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Book Review – White Fang by Jack London

This is the third book written by Jack London I have read in the last month. They are all well written stories about people and animals and their struggles against their environment. White Fang is no exception. I read an adapted version of this one, since it was sitting on our book shelf right next to The Call of the Wild. I enjoyed all three books.

White Fang

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

White Fang

Author

Jack London

Type of Book

Adapted version would probably be a good middle grade read. I would caution sensitive readers there is some violence depicted in this story. It is in line with what actually happens in nature, but some readers may get upset by it.

Background

Just like The Call of the Wild, it was first published as a serialized story. According to Wikipedia, it was featured in Outing Magazine, which was published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century under many different titles. Its tagline “the outdoor magazine of human interest”, ceased publication in 1923.

It was published as a book in 1906 and is said to be a companion book to The Call of the Wild, which focused on a domestic dog becoming wild while White Fang was a wild wolf/dog becoming domesticated. When two stories do this, it is called a thematic mirror. Disney also made a movie of White Fang in 1991.

Summary of Story

Story takes place in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890s. A she-wolf has been living with a wolf pack. They have been foraging for food. When food becomes scarce, the she wolf and another wolf named One Eye, leave the pack. She gives birth to five pups. Due to the lack of food in the Alaskan tundra, only one pup survives. It is White Fang. This is his story of growing up as a wolf/dog.

Reactions to book

I liked the story. As an animal lover, I really got into the character of White Fang. The violence of nature in the book did get to me at points, but London was just telling the story from his experiences in the Yukon. And it was a hard and violent environment. It was neat to see the parallels and mirror images between this book and The Call of the Wild. I didn’t expect it, but glad that I read the other book first to be able to experience it.

If you are interested in picking up a copy, you can find it here White Fang

To learn more about the author, be sure to check out his website Jack London.

Book Review – The Bookshop and the Junglest by Robert L. Perrine

 

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It was time to read another middle grade novel and this one came my way. In one of my fiction writing groups on Facebook, Robert L Perrine posted that his novel was free on Amazon.com for a limited time. When I download a book offered to me this way, I make a point of writing a review. Not only to help another writer out, but also as a thank you for giving me a free copy. Authors are giving their books away to get the exposure, so another thing I could do is blog about it on my Monday Morning Blog.

 

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

The Bookshop and the Junglest

Author

Robert L. Perrine

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction

Background

This is the first book in The Bookshop series and the first book published by this author. Perrine is a chef turned author. Just shows that writers can come from many different professions in life.

Summary of the story

It is a fantasy and adventure story featuring the characters of Maggy and Ethan Marconi. On the first day of summer vacation, they find a book on their dining room table that must be returned to not just any Bookshop. Little did they know when they brought it back, that they would be taken on an adventure to a place called the Junglest with Mr. Catterwall, the proprietor of the bookshop. During their trip, the trio is threatened by many elements of the jungle and they learn about a young girl who lives there.

Reactions to the book

I really liked the story. The characters were easy to relate to and Perrine told a good story.

The whole setting with books and a bookshop was fun and drew me right in. The lessons that Perrine presented through Mr. Catterwall, some being about historical events while others being life, would be easy to relate to for a middle grade reader. Through the adventure, Ethan learned about courage while Maggie learned about how important it is to have a sibling, even though he can be a dork sometimes.

Be sure to stick with the story, as it got a little long winded in places for me. Through this book, Perrine came up with a fun way to present the idea of being taken away on an adventure when one reads a book. When presented this way, I think it could help kids become more interested in reading. I know I went on a fun adventure when I read this one.

I would recommend this fun, adventure novel to any middle grade reader.

If you are interested in learning more about the author or if you are looking for a copy of the book, here is a link to it on Amazon.com The Bookshop and the Junglest

 

Book Review – The Night He Saved Me by Sarah Stevens

This is my first New Adult (NA) read. Not knowing what to expect, I did a little research on what this genre is all about. According to Wikipedia, it was recently created to fill a gap between YA and adult books. It covers more adult type themes than YA does and makes the story more relatable to readers 18-30. The New Adult distinction also helps parents to make a decision about whether the book would be appropriate for their YA readers to read. This has been a popular genre for self published authors to pursue. It tends to focus on protagonists post high school coming of age facing more adult type issues.

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Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

The Night He Saved Me

Author

Sarah Stevens

Type of Book

New Adult (NA) Romance

Background

Sarah Stevens is a newly published New Adult Romance Author. This book is her first, just published in June of 2016.

Summary of the story

Katarina (Kat) is a senior in high school who just moved to a new town with her mom. They moved to get away from all of the havoc her brother created in their lives with his addiction. She would have to start all over at an all girls school and build a new social life for herself. She starts to make friends and becomes close to Brenda (Bren). Together they take on the life of a high school senior, parties, hanging out with guys, and frequenting a coffee shop called The Java. One night at a party, everything in Kat’s life changes. And, she meets a guy that is going to make a difference in her life, the one who saves her.

Reactions to the book

Even though I’m not a big fan of romance, I enjoyed this novel.With this book, Amazon had posted a warning for mature themes that may trigger some readers. I was a  startled at first by the jump up in maturity level from the last YA book I read, The Maze Runner, to this book. They are both different types of stories, adventure versus romance, but the beginning of The Night He Saved Me is full of mature themes, so to be a transition from YA to New Adult, it jumped ahead quickly for me.  I was surprised at the number of references to drugs and alcohol in the beginning, but the people who are reading New Adult are readers who are picking out their own books and are able to relate to that culture as being normal at that age. It is a good and engaging story as it goes on from there. I would recommend this book, with the mature themes heads up, in case the reader is sensitive to those types of themes.

If you interested in learning more about the author, you can follow her on Facebook Sarah Stevens – Facebook and Twitter Sarah Stevens

If you are looking for a copy of the book, here is a link to it on Amazon.com The Night He Saved Me

 

Book Review – Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary was an author I remember reading while I was growing up. Do you remember The Mouse and the Motorcycle? How about the many stories she wrote about her character, Ramona Quimby? Did you know that Ramona’s character was born in an earlier series that Cleary wrote about another one of her characters, Henry Huggins? Henry’s friend, Beezus was Ramona’s older sister. When Cleary stopped the Henry Huggins series in 1968, she turned the focus of her writing to the two sisters.

The first book in the series, Ramona the Pest, Ramona is just entering kindergarten. This book, like the remaining books in the series, it is written from Ramona’s point of view. Having the stories written from the child characters’ point of view is a method used to make the story more relatable to the audience it has been written for. Many middle grade authors do this because having a peer tell the story makes it easier for them to relate to it. Same story told from an adult point of view, may not be received as well.

Through reading this book, I learned about the epistolary style of writing. It is a style based on having the story be told in the form of letters, diary entries or newspaper clippings. This book is written in that style. It adds an intimacy to the story that writing in a more traditional style may not be able to portray.

dear-mr-henshaw

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Dear Mr. Henshaw

Author

Beverly Cleary

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction

Background

Newberry Award Winning book in 1984. In a 2007 online poll Dear Mr. Henshaw was named Teachers Top 100 books for children.

Summary of the story

Leigh Botts, our sixth grade main character, is writing letters to the author of his favorite book, Ways to Amuse a Dog. He starts by writing letters to ask the author, Boyd Henshaw, questions about his book and being an author. After a while his letters become a sharing of Leigh’s day to day feelings with Mr. Henshaw about his parents divorce and being the new kid at school. The author suggests that he put all of this writing into a journal instead of sending him so many letters.

Reactions to the book

I enjoyed the story. Cleary did a great job of making Leigh’s character very relatable to the reader. By writing with an epistolary style,  the reader gets a very intimate view of the character’s thoughts and feeling without interference from the author telling his story.

The writing style confused me in the beginning. I kept reading thinking it was going to change to a more traditional story format, which became my own distraction. When I realized that it wasn’t, I enjoyed the story more.

Leigh came across as a pretty mature kid in how he dealt with Mr. Henshaw’s responses, or sometimes lack of. It may have frustrated him a bit, but it didn’t stop him from writing. His need for someone to listen to him kept him wanting to write more.

I believe this story is very relatable for a middle grade reader. The issues that Leigh faces would be typical for kids his age. Not only with what goes on at school, but also with the thoughts that he is having about his parents’ divorce and how much he misses his Dad. I would definitely recommend the book.

Book Review – Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

According to the author bio in the book, during his lifetime, E.B. White, was asked by many of his young readers if his stories were true. In a letter written to one of his fans, he answered, “No, they are imaginary tales…but real life is only one kind of life-there is also the life of the imagination.”

charlottes-web

 

 Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Charlotte’s Web

Author

E.B. White

Type of Book

Childrens/Middle Grade Fiction

Background

Published in 1952, it was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1970 and was also a Newberry Honor Book in 1953. It was also selected as one of the Top 100 Chapter Books in 2012 in a poll by the School Library Journal.

Summary of the story

Fern Arable, the young girl in our story, lives on a farm with her family. She talks her father into letting her raise a baby piglet, which she names Wilbur. When her father determined that he was big enough to sell at market, Wilbur was moved to the Zuckerman farm where Fern’s Aunt and Uncle lived. Wilbur made friends with all of the animals on the farm and another special creature, a spider named Charlotte. It is a story about growing friendships through day to day life through the eyes of these farm creatures.

Reactions to the book

Reading the book at this point in my life brought me back to my childhood. It is a well written story about how important friendship is, portrayed through animal characters. It was fun to read it again to fill in the parts that I didn’t quite remember from when I read it so long ago.

It is a classic. I would recommend it to middle grade readers and adults too.

How do you get a copy or find out more about the author?

Here is the Amazon.com link to buy the book Charlotte’s Web – Amazon.com

Here is the Wikipedia page to learn more about E.B. White – Author

Book Review – Nellie Nova Takes Flight by Stephenie Peterson

You may be wondering why there isn’t another installment of The Secret Pond on the Monday Morning Blog today. Last month, I made a plan to do a book review once a month and I picked the second Monday for the post. So, when I agreed to do this book review, I set the date for the second Monday in August. So, The Secret Pond story will continue next week and the next book review will come the week after The Secret Pond project has concluded.

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Yesterday morning after taking the dog out, I settled into my comfy chair with a cup of coffee and surfed the channels on TV. I found a Lifetime Movie Network movie about JK Rowling that caught my attention. It was about how she wrote, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, found an agent, who in turn found a publisher, Bloomsbury who then bought the rights to her first book. Little did they know when it was published in 1997 that she would go on to write seven more books in what would become a popular series for middle grade and young adult readers. Just to note, many adults are fans of the series too. The story of her journey is a very inspiring one for a writer like me who is looking to publish a trilogy of my own. After watching the movie, it got me going on my writing.

Through Facebook writing groups, I’m making connections with many published and aspiring authors all at different places in their writing journeys. The advice and support that I find in these groups is invaluable to keep working towards my dream to publish a novel someday.

About a month ago, I proposed the idea of doing a book review of middle grade books on my blog, to add some different content. I mentioned it to a couple of the Facebook writing groups that I’m a member of. One of the authors from Fiction Writers, Stephenie Peterson, volunteered to send me a copy of her first published book. Here’s my review of  Nellie Nova Takes Flight.

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Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Nellie Nova Takes Flight

Author

Stephenie Wilson Peterson

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction

Background

Published in 2016, this is her first published book. It is also the start of a series of books starring her main characters, Nellie and Niles Nova.

Summary of the story

Nellie Nova is a nine year old girl with curly blonde hair and lots of book smarts. She has strengths in math and science, which is not typical of most young girls. After being heckled by her brother, Niles, about being just a girl, she decided to do something that he would never believe she would. Using her knowledge of science and math, she built a time machine. Along with Niles, she visits places and times in history. On one of their adventures, they are able to meet Amelia Earhart, one of Nellie’s all-time favorite people. She is a fan of Amelia’s because she is also a girl, who was brave, and made big things happen.

My reactions to her book

Loved the story. I was drawn in by her characters and story development. Peterson really made Nellie a strong girl character which was nice to see. I’m a pilot, so having Amelia Earhart be the woman that Nellie really wanted to meet, brought me into the story even more.

I would recommend it to all middle grade readers. Seeing such a strong girl character in a novel for their reading level, I think would make it an inspirational read for young girls.

How do you get a copy or find out more about the author?

To get a copy of Nellie Nova Takes Flight from Amazon.com, just follow this link

Nellie Nova Takes Flight

For more information about the author, Stephenie Peterson, and her upcoming books, here’s a link to her website

Stephenie Peterson