Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

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Title: Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Premise:

Wendy and her brothers go on a fantastic adventure with Peter Pan, a boy who lives in the Neverland and never grows up.  They encounter mermaids, fairies and the infamous Captain Hook.  Though they go on many adventures, eventually Wendy and the boys must return home to grow up.

My thoughts:

My son and I read Peter Pan together for our homeschooling and I must say that it surprised me quite a bit.  I grew up watching Disney’s Peter Pan, so I was expecting a tame and mostly innocent story.  Let me tell you, the original Peter Pan is not all fluff.

Captain Hook and the Lost Boys do plenty of killing and maiming in their fights, though at least it isn’t described graphically.  Even innocent little Michael ends up killing a pirate in the final fight scene.

The Disney version got the story line mostly correct, but the book’s delivery is much more wordy and old-fashioned in its language.  I enjoyed it, but I could tell that my son’s attention was flagging at times because of the side tangents and complexity of the language.  For that reason I’d say this book is best suited to older elementary and up — unless your child has a great attention span.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it will be a one-time read for me.

I recommend Peter Pan to those who enjoy classic childhood adventure stories.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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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

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

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Title: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Notable: Book #1 in the Mrs. Pollifax series

Premise:

Mrs. Pollifax is an older widowed woman whose children have left home.  She is feeling unfulfilled in her daily pursuits, so her doctor recommends that she try something out which she’s always wanted to do.  When she was younger, Mrs. Pollifax dreamt of being a spy.  You can see where this is leading, no?

My thoughts:

I was not expecting much of this book–just look at that cover!  When was the last time you saw a book cover quite so absurd?  This book surprised me so much with how well it was written, the charming heroine, and the crazy story line.

Through a happy accident Mrs. Pollifax is chosen for a simple mission, but she ends up getting dragged into a complex and dangerous web of intrigue.  Though she’s naive in the ways of secret agents, Mrs. Pollifax is experienced in life and human nature, and she has to employ all of her wiles and knowledge to make it through a truly harrowing ordeal.

I recommend The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax to those who enjoy an unconventional adventure story with a unique protagonist.  This was a completely unique and refreshing read!


Possible Objections:

  • Some of violence
  • A bit of adult language

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Lost Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Lost Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #4 in the Truth series

Premise:

This fantasy dragon adventure finally wraps up with Alissa, Strell, Lodesh and Connen-Neute going on a journey to find some long-lost comrades.  Alissa and her true love are finally united, though that means one young man is left seriously disappointed.

My thoughts:

After enjoying the previous book so much, this one was a bit of a letdown.  The action was interesting, with several new characters being introduced (which was a welcome relief) and a completely new setting.  Meeting Keribdis brought the story full-circle and it allowed Talo-Toecan to face the foibles of his past which had wreaked so much havoc.

The resolution to Alissa’s love triangle fiasco was sadly disappointing to me.  I didn’t care much for her choice (I tend to root for the underdog), and it didn’t really seem to matter much anymore.  In the previous book her relationship with this particular character had been neglected so much that I pretty much lost interest in it altogether.  There wasn’t enough in this volume to convince me that she was really committed to the relationship.  The other character she had been attached to is basically discarded at the end of the story and that really rankled me.  Oh well.  I’ll get over it.

I recommend Lost Truth to fans of fantasy, dragons and female heroines!


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Forgotten Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Forgotten Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #3 in the Truth series

Premise:

Alissa continues to train with Talo-Toecan, but when she practices a new skill it accidentally sends her back in time.  She’s still in the environs of the Hold, but ends us 400 years in the past, when Lodesh was just a young man.  Alissa tries to find her way back to Strell and her own time, but her feelings for Lodesh become much more complicated.

My thoughts:

This is my favorite book in the series so far.  There’s a richness to the Hold and Ese’ Nawoer of the past that is completely missing in the previous two books (probably because they’re unpopulated, no?).  The characters of Connen-Neute and Lodesh were a real pleasure to see developed, and there were several strong supporting characters, as well.

I don’t know what is going to happen with Alissa’s love life, but it seems like she might have three possible suitors now.  I’m rooting for Connen-Neute, though in truth, I don’t even know if he’s a real contender.  Strell was missing for most of this book and the few scenes he was in weren’t very compelling.  I found myself losing my attachment to his character–eek!  Lodesh likewise has lost some of his shine, based on some underhanded dealings on his part.

I didn’t care too much for the end of this book.  The men all seem totally defeated or amazingly oblivious, while Alissa lords it over them and won’t let go of one of them.  That young lady is being awfully selfish!  We’ll see where this story goes in the next volume…

I recommend Forgotten Truth to fans of fantasy and dragons!


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence
  • A tiny bit of language

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Hidden Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Hidden Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #2 in the Truth series

Premise:

The story continues with Strell being trained by Bailic as a Keeper, and Alissa trying not to blow her cover.  Alissa accidentally wakes the city of Ese’ Nowoer and the magnetic Lodesh enters the scene as a rival love interest.  Useless continues to covertly tutor Alissa, and eventually Alissa undergoes a significant change.

My thoughts:

I zipped through this book, just like the previous one.  Even though the writing isn’t stellar, it’s rich in detail and kept me interested and wanting to find out what would happen next.  For those of you who can’t stand a slower paced book, I think this one would test your patience.  As I was progressing through the story and taking notes, I realized that there wasn’t a whole lot that was really happening.

There’s a lot of relationship intrigue and drama, people getting upset over seemingly unimportant things, waiting and/or skulking around.  There are a few action-packed scenes, but they’re not the norm for most of the book.  Personally, that didn’t bother me.

The characters in this book are probably what keeps me really interested.  Alissa is fairly petty/dramatic in her emotions, but not a stranger to admitting the error of her ways.  Strell seems to have taken a lesser role, serving more as a supporting character than in the first book, and Lodesh is quite intriguing.  I can’t wait to see what his role is in the next book.

Towards the end of the story, there’s a significant development for Alissa, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.  All I’ll say is that it’s pretty cool.

I recommend Hidden Truth to fans of fantasy who like to see an empowered female protagonist.


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence
  • A tiny bit of language

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Ella Enchanted — Movie 2004

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A short while ago I watched Ella Enchanted after having finished the book.

If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

I watched the Ella Enchanted movie before reading the book, so I already knew that I would like the story.  Even though I really enjoyed the movie, I was surprised by how much the story had been changed from the book.  Ella’s movie father is much, much nicer than in the book.  The other major difference is that Char and Ella’s love interest is developed in the movie in a way that it never is in the book.   Also, Char’s evil uncle was completely fabricated for the movie, but we were really gratified to see Cary Elwes in the role.  He must have had fun hamming it up and it reminded us of his performance in The Princess Bride.  The other change which made the movie so much fun was the way it melded modern and old-fashioned, including in costume, dance and singing.  Yes, singing!  Yes, a Queen song!  What more can I say?

Anne Hathaway had a huge part in making this movie the success that it is.  As we all know, she is a superb actress and this film showcases her abilities, even at a young-ish age.  Just like in the book, Ella is a feisty and opinionated Cinderella-type.  Hathaway puts just the right amount of wit, sass and charm into Ella to make her one of the most likable princesses out there.

I recommend Ella Enchanted to everybody who enjoys a good fairy tale.  My boys watched it with me, and even they conceded it was a good movie.

Rated: PG

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER ELLA ENCHANTED POSTS:

First Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: First Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #1 in the Truth series

Premise:

When the magical abilities of a young woman named Alissa awaken, she must travel to the Hold where she can be trained.  Along the way, she meets a young man named Strell and the two are drawn into intrigue and adventure as Alissa begins to discover her latent magical abilities.

My thoughts:

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this book, probably because the last fantasy novel I read wasn’t exactly my favorite.  The author did a really nice job of creating interesting and believable characters, as well as telling a cohesive story rich in detail.  Oh, how I appreciate a fantasy story that makes sense right now!

Alissa and Strell are a bit petty in some scenes, but then again that could be chalked up to young people emotions.  I was plenty petty and ridiculous in my emotions as a young adult at times.  The magic in this story is interesting — more of an internal force than simply saying the right incantations.  I look forward to seeing how the magical abilities are developed, since we only get small glimpses of what is possible.

For those of you who enjoy seeing a strong female character take the lead in a fantasy story, you’ll probably get a kick out of this one.  I have the next two books on standby on my bookshelf, and I can’t wait to get started on them!

I recommend First Truth to fans of fantasy who like to see an empowered female protagonist.


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken by Terrance Dicks

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Title: Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken by Terrance Dicks

Notable: Book #37 in the Doctor Who Library series

Premise:

The Doctor and his current companion, a boy named Adric, are summoned to the planet of Traken.  Traken’s Keeper, who is about to die, needs the Doctor’s help to root out an evil which has established itself on their usually peaceful planet.  Once they arrive on Traken, the Doctor realizes that this is no mere grouchy-pants alien he’s dealing with — it’s a foe he’s met many times before.

My thoughts:

I’m not reading the books in this series in order, but honestly I don’t think it matters too much.  Each Doctor Who episode/story generally does quite well as a stand-alone story.  The previous Doctor Who novel I read was also by Terrance Dicks, and his writing was great in this novel, as in the previous one.

One of the things that I love about these books is that I can see the action taking place in my head.  It’s just like a Doctor Who episode, full of dialogue, interesting characters and lots of action.  This book features the fourth Doctor — floppy hat, long scarf and all.  He is accompanied by Adric, a previous inhabitant of E-space, and meets young lady named Nyssa in this story.  I know that the story is based on an actual TV episode, but sadly I didn’t grow up watching Doctor Who, so it has no nostalgic value to me.

Now, this particular story line is interesting.  It introduces us to a society in which one individual takes on the task of “keeping” the rest of society safe.  The Keeper feels all of the emotions that are not conducive to a peaceful society, as well as being a wise leader and maintainer of order.  One of the Doctor’s greatest enemies decides to take advantage of this amazing power and is very nearly successful in enslaving an entire planet.  I don’t want to give you all the details, but it was a rollicking good adventure.

I recommend Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken to Doctor Who fans everywhere.  Read it so that you can be thorough in your obsession with all things Doctor Who.  😉


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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Title: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Premise:

As children, Heathcliff and Catherine are inexorably drawn together.  Despite their differing natures and weaknesses of character, one can scarcely exist without the other.  Catherine’s haughtiness drives Heathcliff away and stirs him to make his way in the world.  When Heathcliff returns, life at Wuthering Heights will never be the same.  Heathcliff can’t let go of the past and seeks revenge for every real and imagined slight he suffered there.  He and Catherine are like two stars destined to crash into one another and destroy everything near them.

My thoughts:

I first read Wuthering Heights in high school because it was required reading.  I don’t even remember what I thought of it back then, except that it was a bit spooky.  Reading it now, it’s not the spookiness that struck me so much as the examination of human nature.  Heathcliff is such a diabolical character and seems completely beyond redemption.  And yet, despite the fact that he was a dastardly villain, I couldn’t bring myself to truly dislike him.  There’s a part in all of us which feels satisfaction in seeing someone else get revenge on those who have done them wrong.  I’m not saying I condone it, but something in my psyche wants Heathcliff to avenge himself.  Perhaps that’s the lasting draw of this novel — its ability to make the reader examine good and evil in his fellow man, but also in himself.

When you think about when this book was written, it was a very daring tale for its time.  Especially when you consider that it came from a relatively inexperienced young lady.  It’s impressive that she was so adept at capturing human nature and what makes the human race feel hatred, love, and every shade of emotion in between.

This was such an engrossing read for me, that the last part of the book kept me up until the wee hours of the morning.  I simply couldn’t put it down and had to learn the fate of Heathcliff, as well as his young charges.  The ending is so fitting and perfect.  It was a completely satisfying read.  Highly recommended!

I recommend Wuthering Heights to fans of classic literature and anyone who enjoys a messed up love story.

Possible Objections:

  • A little bit of bad language
  • A derogatory term for a loose female is used a few times
  • Some violence

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Arcady by Michael Williams

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Title: Arcady by Michael Williams

Notable: Book #1 in the Arcady series

Premise:

Solomon’s childhood home of Arcady is threatened by a destructive and mysterious force known as the Absence.  Though Solomon’s education at the Seminary has caused him to become jaded and cynical toward Magic and religion, he yet has a role to play in the salvation of his homeland.

My thoughts:

This is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read.  For the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the book, I was pretty much lost.  There were slight connections between events and characters, but not enough to make it seem like a cohesive story.  Not until I was past the halfway mark did the different parts of the story come together and it started to make sense.

I say started, because the narrative never truly came together into a completely understandable story.  This book is absolutely full of half-formed ideas and images — magic, ethereal and difficult to fully grasp.  The characters are strange too, mysterious without adequate explanation of how they came to be that way.  That’s not really my cup of tea, but I muscled my way through the foggy and indistinct imagery and concepts because I don’t like to quit books unless they’re truly awful.

There’s a certain satisfaction to the end of the story.  The baddy is thwarted at least partially, things that were lost can now be rebuilt, the Hawken family isn’t at odds with itself anymore.  Apparently there’s a sequel to this book, but I don’t know if I’ll read it.  It was really tough getting through this one and I don’t feel ready to tackle another tedious read right now.

I recommend Arcady to those who like high fantasy that explores religious themes and imagery.

Possible Objections:

  • A little bit of bad language

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

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Title: The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

Notable: Book #1 in The Heritage of Lancaster County series

Premise:

Katie Lapp is a young Amish woman who is set to marry Bishop John Beiler.  Her heart still belongs to her first love, Dan, who tragically drowned at sea.  She hopes that her marriage to John will give her a new start in life and restore some happiness that she’s been missing.  Just before Katie’s wedding, a family secret comes to light that tears her world apart and she must decide which path is the right one to take.

My thoughts:

This is not my normal reading material at all, so I had a bit of a tough time getting into it.  The book starts out fairly slow, so that contributed as well.  Once I got several chapters in, the action and intrigue picked up and then I couldn’t put it down!  The best way I can describe this story is to say that if a Hallmark movie were to become a book, this would be it.  If that’s too feel-good and emotional for you, you would have a tough time with this book.

There is a strong Christian element to the story, but it didn’t seem out of character, given that it’s about the Amish.  I appreciate all of the small details that the author included about the Amish way of life.  You can tell that she really did her homework.  The story itself is pretty good.  I wasn’t expecting rip-roaring suspense, but it kept my interest and made me want to read the next in the series.

I don’t want to give away the plot, but suffice it to say that Katie goes through an identity crisis of sorts.  She has to figure out what her future life will look like and deal with the consequences of her choice.  It’s rather heartbreaking, really.

I recommend The Shunning to those who enjoy tame romantic stories and reading about the Amish.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

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Title: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Premise:

Phileas Fogg, the stoic and predictable Englishman that he is, decides to go on a trip around the world because of a wager.  He bets his whist companions £20,000 that he can make the trip in eighty days.  Fogg’s servant Passepartout accompanies him, as well as a wily detective who believes Fogg to be a notorious bank robber.  They have many adventures and setbacks along the way, even rescuing a damsel in distress, but will they make it back to London in time to win the bet?

My thoughts:

The first Jules Verne book I read was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  I had my own copy lined up on the shelf in my bunk bed and it was my first introduction to science fiction as a kid.  Ever since then, I’ve loved Jules Verne’s fantastical adventure stories.

Though Jules Verne is best known for his science fiction, this book doesn’t exactly fit into that category.  It capitalizes on elements of the industrial age, such as the great strides made in dependable and quick transportation.  It truly was a marvel how quickly one could traverse the globe, compared to what was possible only a short time previously.

The story is fairly simple — a man travels around the world as quickly as possible, encountering several obstacles along the way.  That’s it in a nutshell.  The character development isn’t stellar and there are a TON of place names, but despite those very slight criticisms, I loved the story.  It’s so very readable and I love a good adventure story!

As far as classic literature goes, this book has fairly accessible language.  It’s also a largely action-driven story, so those two considerations make this a good book to start your journey into classic literature.

I recommend Around the World in Eighty Days to fans of early science fiction and those who enjoy classic literature.

Possible Objections:

  • One character gets high in an opium den
  • Native people referred to as “savages” a few times
  • Overtly English-centric attitude throughout

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

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Title: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

Premise:

This is the life story of a man named Claus (later known as Santa Claus).  It starts with his baby years, when he was abandoned near the forest and a kind-hearted nymph named Necile adopted him as her own.  Claus grew up in an enchanted forest, but when he reached adulthood, he took his place in the world of man.  From his home in the Laughing Valley, Claus spreads happiness to the children of the world by making and delivering toys.  This story talks about his life’s work and how a few common Christmas traditions came to be.

My thoughts:

My son and I just finished reading this for school.  The first time I read it was several years ago and I was quite taken with it back then.  Though the language is quaint and a little old-fashioned, by son thoroughly enjoyed the book and couldn’t wait until we could read the next chapter.

Baum’s story about Santa Claus is more than just a jolly old elf who likes to eat cookies.  His is an active and philanthropic man who makes it his life’s work to bring joy to others.  I like how Santa serves as a middleman between the world of mortals and immortals in this story, drawing the immortals into helping humanity.  I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this book again in a few years so I can read it with my younger girls.  I know they will love the story and I think this is a great family read-aloud!

I recommend The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus to young readers, families and anyone else who wants to learn more about Santa’s history (at least according to Baum).

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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