Review of The Tale of Hawthorn House

The Tale of Hawthorn House by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction, Adult

Series – 4th in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – for mild language and drama

Synopsis –

During a summer festival, baby Flora suddenly appears on Miss Potter’s doorstep. The villagers begin a search for the Flora’s parents, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Jemima Puddle-duck tries her hand at motherhood. Will Miss Potter be able to get down to the bottom of the mystery?

My thoughts –

Compared to the first three books, this one felt a little repetitive. There was a lot of recapping what had happened in previous books. From the start of the book, you have a pretty good idea where its headed. Not really any surprises.

Now, its not all bad. There is still some magic to the quaint village of Sawrey. I enjoyed the bit about the town’s meddling in personal affairs and chuckled at how the inhabitants had decided on who Miss Potter would marry.

Now I did struggle with the whole Thorn Folk. In The Tale of Holly How, the fairies felt real and not pushed on you. While here, I feel forced to believe that these Thorn Folk exist. Maybe it was the way the author used them, but I did not care for it.

To me the whole animal side-plot works for me. I enjoy hearing the animals talk among themselves about the big folk. I enjoy hearing about their adventures. Although Jemima could be annoying at times. I struggled to believe that she would run off with a fox. It connects the stories Beatrix Potter wrote to this series.

Violence – None

Innuendo – At the beginning, it is insinuated that a character had a baby out of wedlock, but that turns out not to be the case.

Language – A few mild curse words, maybe 4 at the most.

Conclusion –

I appreciate having a series of books that are clean and aren’t filled with a bunch of superfluous content. Although, this addition to the series wasn’t up to par as the previous books were, it still had that small town charm. I’m hoping the rest of the series will improve.

Review for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages

The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, science fiction

Rating – PG for mild peril

Series – 5th book in The Mysterious Benedict Society

Synopsis –

It has been several years since we last met with the society. They have now grown up and matured. Yet, there is a new crisis arising. The Ten Men have escaped and are looking for revenge, and they have teamed up with another telepathic individual. Will the society be able to come together once more?

My Thoughts –

I was so excited when I first heard this was coming out!! I read this series back when I was in middle-school. So this was a sweet treat to be able to visit with some old friends. The older kids are roughly 16 years old, maybe 17. While, Constance is now 8.

This book had a different feel to it then the previous four. (I’m included The Extortionary Education of Nicholas Benedict in the count.) The writing style has changed. The riddles are still there, but the focus has shifted more to how they have all changed.

A key component to this book is growing up and how that affects friendships. I think this one will resonate with kids and adults alike. There are some great moments in there between Reynie and Mr. Benedict which really got to me. I loved that we get an idea of where the kids will go in the future.

I will mention a couple downsides that I feel detract from this book. First, less action and less mystery. I do with there would have been a bit more mystery for the kids to solve. It spent much more time focusing on interpersonal communication.

Secondly, the adults where for the most part are out of the picture. I remember when I first read this series, how positive the adults were portrayed. So, many books these days have awful parenting. This was always a series I could count on showing positive parent-child relationships. Not to say that the parents were portrayed negatively, but their influence was minimal at best. I guess this is due to the kids needed to grow up and take on more responsibility.

Language – None

Innuendo – A character who can read thoughts heard that a some characters had crushes on each other. There is no mention of who crushes were on.

Violence – This series for the most part tries to handle things without relying on violence. Several characters talk about how they do not want to hurt anyone. A bad character throws pencils at other characters, and talks about hurting them. Also a character shoots tranquilizer darts, but overall no one is hurt.

Summery –

I loved being able to return to this fantastic series. The whit and charm were still there, but the characters themselves have changed. While, there is less action, we get a deeper look at friendship and the lengths one would take to keep it going. This would be a great read-aloud!

What are your thoughts? Have you read this series? Which book is your favorite?

Anna

Review for Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes (Peter Nimble #1)

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Genre – Middle-grade, fantasy, mystery

Rating – PG for fantasy violence

Age range – Middle school on up (I think it would make a good read aloud)

Synopsis –

Peter Nimble is trying to make a living for himself by stealing for Mr. Seamus despite his blindness. Until one day he meets a mysterious stranger who helps Peter by giving him a special gift. Peter then sets out across the ocean to answer a call for help, and might discover someone about himself along the way.

My thoughts –

This was a quirky book which I really enjoyed reading. The author wrote it in the third person so at times the narrator will pop out and explain something. A sort of cheeky comical/absurd feel to it. It meshed several genres together by combining fantasy, with an orphan tale, and a dash of mystery. The beginning was reminiscent of Oliver Twist.

The plot was tight and moved quickly. Several of the twists were a little predictable. I saw the end coming a mile away. The characters while, absurd at times, were relatable. Throughout the novel, Peter really grows as a character from petty thief to revolutionary. I loved that Sir Tode became one of Peter’s best friends and stood up for him. Also, the ravens were a nice touch. Now, the bad guys felt very one dimensional. They were totally evil.

I loved how the author incorporated the Fantastic Eyes throughout the book. They helped Peter when used the right way. Thankfully, they weren’t overused. Some books rescue the hero every time he gets in trouble. Not in this book, when Peter gets in trouble, he learns from his mistakes.

Violence – It was more violent then I expected for a middle grade book. There were two main battles where many characters died. In a couple places there is mention of blood covering a street. A gang of boys throw daggers around a zebra. The ravens attack and kill a few banished thieves. Several ravens get cut or die.

Language – None

Innuendo – None

Other- I should mention that there is a fair amount of thieving that goes on. The book does mention that thievery is not a good thing. Peter does not enjoy doing it, but he does it cause he has too.

Conclusion –

This book had me intrigued from the start! I love the cover as it catches your eye. The narrator sometimes pops up and made me laugh with the third person dialogue. I cannot wait to read the squeal.

Review for The Oath

The Oath by Frank Peretti

Genre – Thriller, dragons, Christian fiction

Standalone

Rating – PG-13 for violence

Synopsis – I am just going to quote the book as I won’t do it justice.

“Something sinister is at work in Hyde River, an isolated mining town in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Something evil. Under the Cover of darkness, a predator strikes without warning- taking life in the most chilling and savage fashion. The community of Hyde River watches in terror as residents suddenly vanish. Yet the more locals are pressed for information, the more they close ranks, sworn to secrecy by their forefathers’ hidden sins.” (Peretti, Backcover).

My thoughts –

Hmm where to start?? This book has a lot going for it. The plot was an intriguing one. Basically it asks the question of what would happen if sin manifested itself as a dragon. As with Peretti’s other books, the action scenes are sprinkled into the enfolding drama. Not necessarily a slow start, but it took me a while to really connect with this book. I liked the characters in Peretti’s book Monster better and read it in about two days! Part of this book’s slower pace is that Peretti lays the foundation in the beginning and takes time to set the stage. It pays off hugely in the end.

Ok, lets talk about the characters. Honestly, it took me a while to warm up to the characters. At first I did not like Steve, the main character, until well over half way into the book. For some reason he just rubbed me the wrong way. As time went on, I did grow to understand where Steve was coming from. I did like Levi, the town’s crazy mechanic who spoke words of wisdom to those who needed to hear it. I was not a fan of Tracy, but I did want her to change and help Steve solve the mystery.

If you have ever read a book where the character makes a bad choice that is cringe worthy, take that and multiple it by ten. Much of the book is the characters making poor choices. It showcases how sin can be quit the master of our lives. It was sad seeing some of these characters trade their live away for a few pleasant moments on earth. This is definitely a heavier book that will leave you thoughts to ponder. I sort of stumbled upon this book by accident after finishing Monster. This is a book I will probably need to reread in a couple years.

There was one scene that brought tears to my eyes. A character eventually realized how sin has affected him and the only way to stop the dragon was submitting to Jesus. He does this as chaos erupts around him and then defends his conversion as another character tries to prevent him doing it. It was a touching scene and was well written.

Violence –

Because this book deals with sin, it does not hold back when it comes to violence and gross descriptions. Many people die/vanish throughout this tale. At the beginning of the book, half of a person is found at a camping site. Several characters just simple disappear and are assumed dead. Many characters are described as having black fluid that oozes from a sore near their heart. The dragon eats several characters. A character shoots another character during a fight. One character begins a mob that evicts people from their homes and then sets the houses on fire. The dragon tries to hurt a character by breathing fire. You kind of get the picture.

Language –

One unfinished name calling someone son of a -. No language actually used.

Innuendo –

We learn that several affairs have occurred – most happen before book started so we just hear that it happened. A character watches as a woman swims in a lake and watches her grab clothes. There is a brief mention that two characters spend the night together when they are not married. We find out after the fact.

Conclusion –

I really enjoyed this book, more then I thought I would. It has given me thoughts to ponder like how sin can start of very little, but as we give in to it, it can become quite the dragon in our life. The only way we can conquer sin, is by submitting to Jesus. Now, I would recommend this for adults not sure about teens. There are some difficult themes, and that would make this a great discussion book. As a Christian thriller, this was quite good. So, go grab a copy!

Have you read this book? Do you like it or hate it? Cannot wait to hear from you guys!

Anna

Review for The Tale of Hill Top Farm

The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Cozy British Mystery

Age Range – Anyone

Series – 1st book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Synopsis –

The story starts with a death in the small community of Sawrey. This causes a crisis for the villagers as the woman who died was going to host the newcomer, Ms. Potter, to the village. Ms. Potter has just bought the land of Hill Top Farm, and she is hoping to get some inspiration for her books. As the villagers try to figure out where to put Ms. Potter, things start disappearing from several local establishments. Ms. Potter must eventually decide whether she will become involved in the small village or go back home to her parents?

My Thoughts –

This book has all the charm of the British countryside. The plot is a bit slower as it takes time to introduce all the characters, but it is well worth it. Not so much a mystery as a fictional account of what it might have been like for Beatrix Potter to move away from her family. The author ensures that we know who the real people are in the story, and at the back of the book gives a chronological account of Beatrix Potter’s life at Hill Top Farm.

The author did something unique by having not only people in the story, but animals as well. The animals can talk among themselves and not to people. Several of the animals are real pets that Beatrix Potter had. The animals actually are quite the investigators of the story. It gives the book a touch of fantasy which really fits.

Another thing I liked was the characters. I know I say that about almost every book, but I truly mean it here. All the characters have a role to play in this tiny community. Whether it be the vicar, the constable, or the head teacher. The author lets us hear from a variety of perspectives, although the main voice belongs to Ms. Potter. There is a vary poignant moment between the vicar and an ill character which shows how much he cares for everyone.

Negative content –

  • Violence – One character dies of natural causes (off the page) and a character stumbles and breaks her leg
  • Language – None
  • Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

I am eager to read the rest of this series as it was amazing. It is the perfect fall book. If you are interested in more character development and less mystery, then this might be the book for you. It truly brought the world of Beatrix Potter to life and makes me want to go back and read her children’s stories.

I cannot wait to hear your thoughts!!

Anna

Review for Murder on the Flying Scotsman

Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn

Genre – Mystery, 1930’s England

Rating – I would say in between a PG and PG-13. For mild language and intense moments

Series – Fourth in the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries

Summery –

Daisty Dalrymple is on her way to visit another home for her Town and Country articles. She is on a train when she finds the Chief Inspector’s daughter, Belinda, who ran away from home. Daisy invites Belinda to join her until can call the child’s grandmother. Meanwhile, a large family has also boarded the train, and they bicker and argue most of the trip. What will Daisy do when Belinda becomes a witness to a crime?

My Thoughts –

Goodness, this was an exciting read!! So far, this was the best of the Daisy Dalrymple series. The plot flowed nicely, and kept moving. Instead of taking place at a mansion, this one takes place on a train. Yes, it is a little reminiscent of Murder on the Orient Express, but also completely unique. It honestly took me a while to figure out who the suspect was which was a nice change.

The thing that stood out to me was the characters. We knew several of the characters from the previous three books. I loved the interaction between Daisy and Belinda as they finally got to have some bonding time. It was also fun to see another side of Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher. I loved how he wanted to keep his daughter safe, but also solve the murder. Daisy and Alec together is also kinda cute. Their relationship is a slow one, which is nice compared to so many books/movies.

Negative Content

Violence – Only a little violence in this book which was a nice relief. A couple characters stumble upon a dead victim. The murder happens off the page so that you know it happened, but do not actually see if happen. A character stumbles into some bushes and gets scratched. Several characters get scratched. Also mentions of suffocation

Language – Not much, an occasional word mostly just words you would find in a PG movie

Innuendo – Two kisses both brief. One scene where Daisy is grateful a child is there or she would have done something that she would have regretted.

Conclusion –

This is nice cozy that you could read on a rainy day. There is a great cast of characters from the mysterious Indian doctor to the lovable Belinda. I loved having it set on a train which set the stage for whole book. So far, this is my favorite in this particular series. It was a nice, light read. Age range would probably be teen on up.

Have you read this book or the series? What are your thoughts?

Anna

Review for Greenglass House

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Genre – Middle-grade mystery/fantasy

Rating -PG – mild peril and a few choice words

Summary –

It is Christmas time, and all Milo wants to do is relax with his parents, but unexpectedly guests start arriving at the inn. Then items start disappearing from the guest’s rooms. Who is the thief, and is it connected to the guests sudden appearance?

My thoughts –

This is a tough book to write up as I have mixed feeling about it. It combines fantasy with a mystery, yet in a very down to earth way. First, there are many things that I liked about this book. The main character Milo is an upstanding hero who loves his parents, but struggles with being adopted. He and another character work together well as they try to figure out the puzzle. I thought the mystery part was well written, and did not know who the thief was until the reveal.

The author did something unique for middle grade fiction by making most of the characters adults. At the start of the book, I struggled keeping track of who everybody was as they arrived all at once, but later on you get to know the characters. The two kids are respect the adults and Milo will ask his parents for help when he needs it.

Another part of the plot revolves around Milo pretending to be a character in a campaign game which assists him in the investigation. Their campaign is based entirely on the events that have occurred at the inn. I think the game is somewhat similar Dungeons and Dragons in that there are a variety of characters to pick from, and they each have special abilities (I have not played D &D just heard of it). This also helps him imagine what his real parents might have been like.

Also, I should mention that part of the story involves thieves and stealing items. Milo’s parents own a inn where smugglers frequently visit. Some characters tell stories about a famous smuggler who supposedly hide his treasure.

Language – Milo’s parents and other guests say Oh my G a couple times. Five or six uses of the H word mostly used in a common phrase. Still I was surprised to see it in a middle grade book

Violence – A character pulls out a gun and waves it around. He tries to shoot someone, but nobody gets hurt.

Innuendo – None

Other –

Now, we come to the final odd bit of the book. I am going to try to be as spoiler free as possible, but it gives the surprise away. So, if you want to be surprised skip this next paragraph. Ok, to start a couple characters talk about having seen a ghost and tell the story. Later, we come to realize that one character is a ghost. Honestly, I was not expecting this. It came towards the end. It knocked the book down a couple notches for me. I think it could have been a perfectly fine book without sticking ghosts in it.

Conclusion –

I am still on the fence with this book. There are many good things that I enjoyed about this book. I loved the characters which were all quirky. The plot never dragged. I read it within a couple days. Despite other thing mentioned, I enjoyed this one. It reminded me a bit of the Mysterious Benedict Society. Age wise not sure. I think it would depend on the child, but middle school on up. Adults can enjoy it as well.

Have you read this book and or the sequel? What did you like/dislike?

Anna