The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene

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Title: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene

Notable: Book #1 in the Nancy Drew mystery series

Premise:

Nancy Drew, a young lady who lives with her lawyer father, has a penchant for sleuthing.  When an old man dies and leaves his entire estate to a family he disliked, Nancy wants to investigate whether or not a later will was written.

My thoughts:

Nancy Drew mysteries are what you would call old-fashioned and quaint.  I can just picture Nancy zipping around in her little convertible in her just-so prim dresses.  I’m not one for a lot of prim and proper damsel kind of garbage, but Nancy has enough spunk and daring that I’m willing to overlook her prissiness.

The mystery itself isn’t mind blowing or terribly complex, but it’s a fun story for a younger person who enjoys the genre.  If you want your kids to get started on a mystery series that isn’t morally objectionable in any way, you’ll want to check out this series.  Or maybe you read Nancy Drew as a kid and just want to revisit the books for nostalgia’s sake.  Whatever floats your boat, man.

I recommend The Secret of the Old Clock to those who enjoy tame mysteries featuring a teen/young adult protagonist.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Snowbound Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

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Title: Snowbound Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Notable: Book #13 in The Boxcar Children series

Premise:

The Alden siblings go to a hunter’s cabin in the woods to spend a week out in the wilderness.  When a freak snow storm hits, they are stuck in the cabin, determined to make the best of it until their grandfather can send help.  A local family who runs the small store nearby treks out to the cabin to make sure the children are okay.  While they all await rescue, the Aldens help solve a mystery that the Nelson family has been trying to uncover for many years.

My thoughts:

I feel like the Boxcar Children books are pretty formulaic.  If you’ve read one, you know what subsequent books will be like.  This one is no exception.  Somehow these children end up fending for themselves or at least acting independently no matter what situation they find themselves in.  Their grandfather must feel pretty strongly that they should be encouraged to become independent.  Anyhow, he lets them go off to stay in a cabin in the woods for a week by themselves.  This mama objects!

The major event in the story is when the Aldens help solve a mystery for the Nelson family.  I don’t want to give it away, but the consequence is that it totally transforms their life.  They’re no longer stuck hoping for a brighter future, but can go ahead and realize their dreams.  It’s a feel-good ending.  🙂

I recommend Snowbound Mystery to younger readers who enjoy lighthearted mysteries.  It would also be a good book to read aloud to your kids.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Mystery in the Snow by Gertrude Chandler Warner

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Title: The Mystery in the Snow by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Notable: Book #32 in The Boxcar Children series

Premise:

The Alden children visit a ski resort with their grandfather and get to enter a winter event competition.  When it seems like the contest is being sabotaged, it’s up to the Alden children to figure out who is ruining it and why.

My thoughts:

You can count on The Boxcar Children for innocent and simple mystery stories for kids.  While there’s nothing profound in this book, it keeps kids engaged by presenting a mystery which they try to unravel.  When I was a kid I loved this series and it still holds somewhat of a magical, mystical quality for me.

The story itself is pretty simple.  The kids enter a contest which features skiing, ice skating, sledding, snow sculpture and ice sculpture.  Two teams compete and at the end they hold an awards ceremony.  From the beginning though, the competition seems to be experiencing an awful lot of misfortune, from a missing key to other peoples’ work being ruined.  This would be an especially appropriate story during the Christmas season, or for kids who enjoy outdoor winter activities.

I recommend The Mystery in the Snow to children who enjoy mysteries without any objectionable material.  It would also be suitable to read aloud to your family.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

National Geographic Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places: More Than 250 Spine-Chilling Destinations Around the Globe by Sarah Bartlett

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My son brought home Supernatural Places from the library.  I put it up on the shelf because I didn’t want my younger kids finding it; some of the illustrations are rather spooky.  It looked quite compelling, so I perused it one evening once the kids had gone to bed.

Premise:

This is a non-fiction reference book, which gives you a short blurb on many different supernatural locations around the world.  It covers everything from haunted houses to ancient ruins, people groups to natural spaces.  One page is devoted to each location, and includes a photo and basic information.  The sections include: Haunted Places, Vampire Haunts, Witchcraft and the Dark Arts, Sacred Places, UFO Hot Spots, and Myths & Legends.

My thoughts:

I found this book utterly fascinating, and definitely spooky!  I’m not into horror, so this is about as macabre as I like to go.  Some of the entries are icky–such as the cannibalistic clan in Scotland during the 17th century.  Most of the entries are not gory, but be warned that there are a few.  The photos are wonderful–I love reference books with good photography!

This book is a great teaser for many interesting places and events throughout history.  It’s good as a jumping off point, if you want to do more research and a fuller study of some of these fascinating places.  It would also make a great coffee table book.

I would recommend this book for older teens to adults because of the mature subject matter.

Possible objections:

  • occult themes
  • sexual themes
  • gory elements
  • general scariness

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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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