The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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I checked this book out on a whim.  Whenever I read the newspaper, I notice that list of popular books right next to the crossword puzzle.  I never have looked at any of those books–until now.  I thought it might be fun to see what’s so great about the current popular books out there.

I finished reading The Girl on the Train a couple of days ago.  It’s not the type of book that I normally pick up, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  It’s a little hard to classify.  I’d call it a cross between a psychological/crime thriller and peoples’ personal memoirs.  It sounds a bit strange, but the book focuses equally on events and peoples’ thought lives.

Each chapter focuses on an individual character and records their thoughts and actions in diary form.  The chapters jump around from one character to another, where we learn what happens in the story, the characters’ motives and thoughts, and what they think about one another.

This book is interesting in that you don’t really know who the “good guys” are until the end.  In the beginning you will probably think that you have it figured out, but as the story progresses and peoples’ thoughts are exposed, you will come to a new understanding.  The book really got me thinking about what makes a person good or bad.  Outward appearances can be deceiving.

I don’t want to tell you a lot about the plot because that will totally ruin the book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.  I will tell you that it’s about a woman named Rachel whose husband (Tom) divorced her for another woman.  Rachel can’t move on and she becomes an alcoholic.  While riding on the train past the row of houses where she used to live, she witnesses something that is seemingly inconsequential, but that has a major impact on the other characters in the story.  There are other characters who become entwined in the story–Anna (Tom’s new wife), Scott and Megan Hipwell (neighbors of Tom’s), Kamal (a therapist), Cathy (Rachel’s flatmate), etc.

I would recommend this book as an interesting and engrossing read.  It kept me guessing almost up to the end about who the “bad guy” was.  It’s also a good study on human nature and what makes people tick.  I would say that it’s appropriate for adults because of the language, sex, and violence.

Possible Objections:

  1. Bad language–quite a bit of it.
  2. Sexual themes.
  3. Violence.

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

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The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Pets by Stan & Jan Berenstain

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The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Pets is a funny book about the realities of owning a dog.  The cubs ask Mama and Papa if they can get a pet, like other cubs have.  Farmer Ben just happens to have some pups he’s getting rid of, and offers one as a gift to the cubs.

Mama and Papa talk about all the work that is involved with owning a dog, but the cubs promise that they will do all of the work themselves.  Once they get the dog home, they make sure everything is set up for her and she seems to settle right in.  At first, the cubs argue over who gets to do things like feed and walk the dog, but soon it turns into arguments over whose turn it isn’t.  Not only that, but the dog starts to get destructive when she is left inside all day.  As a solution, Papa builds a doghouse and fenced area for her out in the yard.

The book doesn’t say that she is an outside dog all the time, but it is implied.  I’m not crazy about the end of the book because it seems to send the message that you should just send a misbehaving dog outside.  It could at least talk about the fact that a bored dog is a destructive dog.  Other than that, it’s a cute book that does a fair job of talking about the responsibilities in owning a dog.

Until next time…

Lori

Bears on Wheels by Stan & Jan Berenstain

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Bears on Wheels is great book for little kids who are just learning to count.  The text is very short and repetitive.  Each page is simply a counting of how many bears are on the bikes.  The numbers change in silly ways–by bears jumping onto other bicycles, balancing on one another, or falling off.

The illustrations are really cute and in the traditional style of the Berenstains.  Little kids will love this one!

Until next time…

Lori

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Yoda in Action by Heather Scott

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Slime wanted to post this book because he really enjoyed it.  Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Yoda in Action! is best for kids who are learning to read alone.  The length is somewhere between a picture book and a chapter book.

The story involves Yoda and Asajj Ventress in an adventure on a moon called Rugosa.  They are meeting with the Toydarians to help establish a treaty that would allow them to build a base in their star system.  However, nasty Dooku tries to ruin their plans by attacking with a bunch of battle droids.  Of course, Yoda wins.

This book isn’t grand literature by any means, but it is a way to get kids reading.  😉

Until next time…

Slime & Lori

The New Baby by Mercer Mayer

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The New Baby is another book that I enjoyed as a kid.  In fact, this is the very copy that I read back then, with my name printed inside the front cover.  I loved, loved, loved this book.  Maybe it was because of the cute baby, maybe it was the fun illustrations, maybe it was the goofiness of it.  Or maybe a combination off all three.

In this book Critter gets a new baby sister.  He tries to interact with her, but discovers that there are many things she isn’t able to do yet.  However, he also discovers that she can do some fun things like cuddle, laugh, and go for a walk in her stroller.  At first Critter is a bit put off by her stinky diapers and crying, but he learns that babies can be enjoyable, too.

This is a good book for a child who is expecting a new baby in the house.  The text is very short and the pictures are great!

Until next time…

Lori

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Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

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I’m curious to know who else grew up reading Harry the Dirty Dog.  I enjoyed it when I was little and now my kids love it, too.  This is a really cute story about a dog who runs away from home because he doesn’t want a bath.  He goes through town on a series of explorations, getting dirtier with each one.  When he finally decides that he would like to return home, his family doesn’t recognize him because he’s so dirty.

Harry finds his scrub brush and jumps in the tub, as if asking the family to bathe him.  As they start to wash him and the dirt is scrubbed away, they finally recognize him as their very own Harry.

I think the illustrations are magical, but that might be nostalgia talking.

Until next time…

Lori

The Far Side Gallery 2 by Gary Larson

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We picked up The Far Side Gallery 2 at the local thrift store.  Thrift stores are great places to find cartoon anthologies!  Anyhow, we are big fans of The Far Side.  I love the humor and irony in Gary Larson’s strips.  It’s also fun to see how he develops a theme over time, coming back to it over and over again.

I’d say this book is meant for older teens and adults.  Many of the strips require a certain amount of background knowledge and sophistication of thought that younger kids don’t have yet.  Plus, I think there were a few strips that weren’t exactly appropriate for kids.

So…if you’re a Far Side fan you should definitely get your hands on a copy of this book to check out and enjoy!

Until next time…

Lori

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

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We received The Gruffalo from a family member several years ago as a gift.  It’s a cute story about a mouse and a monster-type animal called a Gruffalo.  The mouse is walking through the woods and when he is accosted by animals that want to eat him, he describes a monstrous animal that he’s meeting to share a meal with.  The other animals flee because the Gruffalo sounds so scary and forbidding.  Of course, the mouse doesn’t believe in the Gruffalo, until they actually meet in the woods!

Thinking fast again to avoid being eaten, the mouse tells the Gruffalo to follow him and see that all the animals in the woods are afraid of him.  As they walk past each animal it flees, not because of the mouse, but because of the Gruffalo who is tailing the mouse.  The Gruffalo, however, doesn’t realize this and runs away from the big bad mouse, too.

The illustrations in this book are fabulous!

Until next time…

Lori

Ten in the Bed by Penny Dale

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 Ten in the Bed is a very cute sing-song story for younger kids.  It’s about a little boy who goes to bed and keeps kicking his stuffed animals out when he rolls over and pushes them out.  When all of his animals have left the bed, then he starts to feel lonely and calls them back in.

The illustrations in this book are what really make it.  You can see how the little boy is just being rough with his animals and purposely throwing them out of bed.  They, in turn, go to the kitchen to look for a nighttime snack.

I’ve read this with all of my kids and it’s been a great book for cuddling together and sharing warm fuzzies.

Until next time…

Lori

Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the LEGO Minifigure by Nevin Martell

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Son number two loves this reference book!  Standing Small is a book that really celebrates the LEGO minifigure–for all those addicted to collecting them.  (That would describe our boys!)  It starts with the origins of the minifigure, and then shows figures from some of the major series.  This includes Star Wars, Knights, Space, City, etc.

With some of the figures they show how they changed throughout the years.  That’s interesting to see.  There’s also a double-page spread in the back that shows some fan-built minifigures.

I would recommend this book for those who are obsessed with LEGOs, like my boys are.  This book is by no means exhaustive, but it is a fun addition to any LEGO library.

Until next time…

Lori

The Official Pokemon Handbook by Maria S. Barbo

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My second son loves all things Pokémon.  He inherited this obsession partially from my niece.  Now that she is older, she is passing on a few of her Pokémon items to my son, including The Official Pokemon Handbook.  It features 151 Pokémon–from Bulbasaur to Mew.  There are also some fun extra sections, like how to care for your Pokémon and information about the trainers and gym leaders.

My son got the book home and proceeded to devour it–over and over and over again.  This is the child who loves reference-type books.  If there is a kid in your life who loves Pokémon and factoids, they will enjoy this book.  It’s older, but there are still quite a few of them on the market.

Until next time…

Lori

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

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I went back recently to read a book from one of my favorite series–the memoirs of James Herriot, an English veterinarian from the 1930’s.  This book is called All Creatures Great and Small.

It starts off following James as he enters practice after just having graduated from school.  He lands a job with Siegfried Farnon, an interesting employer.  The book is full of a series of interesting episodes that happened in Mr. Herriot’s life.  Some focus on his patients, some on the people he interacted with, and some on his colleagues.  One thing they all have in common is that they are entertaining.  It’s not just that the stories are entertaining, they are also touching.  You get caught up with the characters and care about their struggles and triumphs, embarrassments and pride, humor and ill-humor.

Mr. Herriot had a refreshing knack for bringing the stories in his past to life for others to enjoy, too.  His writing is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoy it.  I suspect you will, too.  Just be warned that his books are best for adults or older teens.  They have a fair bit of mature subject matter in them.

Possible Objections:

  • Some bad language.
  • Plenty of talk about animal anatomy.
  • Other adult themes.

 Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi: Death on Naboo by Jude Watson

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We also read Death on Naboo, another novel in the Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi series that we thoroughly enjoyed!

Ferus is now in prison, slowly wasting away, but still trying to plan his escape.  He learns that a former acquaintance of his, Clive, is also imprisoned and has been planning an escape for some time.  Together the two of them make a last-ditch effort to gain their freedom.  Meanwhile, Ferus’ accomplices are also planning to break him out of prison.  Their escape and rescue plans happen to overlap and they accidentally meet up and are able to work together to escape.

Naboo, Padmé’s homeworld is in the Empire’s sights as a world to be taken over.  Against the rules of the Senate, the Empire has been stocking weapons in one of Naboo’s main hangars.  Ferus travels to Naboo to keep Malorum from finding out the secret that he so desperately seeks.  He wants to destroy Darth Vader with it, but Obi-Wan warned Ferus that if that is allowed to happen, the future of the galaxy would be in great peril.  Malorum must be stopped!

Malorum makes it to Naboo and coerces the secret of Padmé’s babies from her grandmother.  Because of a staged power-outage he isn’t able to transmit the information and must carry it himself.  During the staged accidental explosion of the hangar (by Ferus’ accomplices and Naboo’s forces), Ferus confronts Malorum and the two duel.  Ferus is the better opponent and defeats Malorum, whose secret goes to the grave with him.

We very highly recommend the books in this series!  They rock!

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi: Underworld by Jude Watson

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I’ve gotten a little behind on our Star Wars chapter books.  We finished Underworld some time ago, and I didn’t bother to post about it.  We’ve just been enjoying our reading too much.

In Underworld, Ferus attempts to locate other Jedi at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.  It isn’t until he gets inside that he realizes he’s walked into a trap.  The Empire has spread rumors about the Jedi prison, luring free Jedi to their death.  In a sinister scene, Ferus encounters a room full of lightsabers, representing all those who’ve been caught so far.

Ferus and Trever then try their luck at finding a group of people called The Erased, those who’ve shed their identities and gone into hiding on Coruscant from the Empire.  They hear of a place called Solace and make it their goal to find it and see if any other Jedi are left.  In this adventure we encounter Dexter Jettster (diner owner) and a group of various other Erased.  They agree to accompany Ferus and help him with his mission.

The group makes it down to the crust of Coruscant, many levels deep, and finds someone to guide them to Solace.  What will happen next?

Another interesting thread to the story is the relationship and rivalry between Malorum and Darth Vader.

Rating: 4 Stars

 

Until next time…

The Berserker

Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi: Dark Warning by Jude Watson

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The boys and I have finished Dark Warning, the second book in the Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi series.  Book number three is waiting on a library shelf for us to come pick it up.  As usual, the book kept my boys nestled in close, listening spellbound to the action going on in this galaxy far, far away.

In this story, we pick up where we left off with Obi Wan, Ferus, and Trever.  They’re still on the run from the Empire, but learn that there may be other Jedi still alive.  Ferus has to learn how to work with The Force again, and see if he can pass the test to become a full Jedi.  His own doubts are the most difficult thing for him to overcome.  Obi Wan and Ferus have success in finding another Jedi and two more people (Toma & Raina) to join them in their quest to find and harbor fugitive Jedi.  The end of the book finds Obi Wan returning to Tatooine, and Ferus continuing his quest to locate the last remnants of the Jedi and bring them to a safe haven.  Ferus can’t understand why Obi Wan would turn his back on the Jedi, for some secretive mission.  Though the two worked together for a time to help plant the seeds of the rebellion, they must now part ways and pursue their own objectives.

Rating: 4 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori