Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review - "Dead End in Norvelt" by Jack Gantos

My Take:

This book is really, really funny (think 12-year-old boy humor, a.k.a. "A Christmas Story") and had me laughing out loud repeatedly. Its characters are quirky - some likeable, a few sinister. The plot - which includes a good deal of corpses, nosebleeds and Hell's Angels - kept me wondering and speculating until the end. 

In short, it's a clever, funny read that I would recommend, especially for boys!

Personally, I didn't find it to be necessarily on par with most Newbery books I've read - but it was most definitely worth my time.

Goodreads Summary:

Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction!
Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. 

But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his Utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. 

Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review - "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith

My Take:

A fun read with lots of heart and wit (I'm a sucker for dry humor that isn't in-your-face, making it all the more endearing).  Great for a vacation or other such occasion during which you don't want to think too terribly deeply -- but where you could use some good laughs and a sigh or two while remembering the pathos both of falling in love and of unrequited love.

It's hard to believe this book was written in 1948.  The refreshingly modern prose is dated only by references to the period.


This is the journal of Cassandra Mortmain; an extraordinary account of life with her equally extraordinary family.  First, there is her eccentric father.  Then there is her sister, Rose - beautiful, vain and bored - and her stepmother, Topaz, an artist's model who likes to commune with nature.  Finally, there is Stephen, dazzlingly handsome and hopelessly in love with Cassandra.

In the cold and crumbling castle which is their home, Cassandra records events with characteristic honesty, as she tries to come to terms with her own feelings.  The result is both marvellously funny and genuinely moving. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review - Ascendance Trilogy (False Prince & Runaway King)

My Take:

Fantastic books filled with swordplay, treachery, wit, suspense, good versus evil, young love, and against-all-odds, edge-of-your-seat action. 

My 12-year-old son read these in record time, I followed suit, and we're both anxiously awaiting the publication of the third book. 

If you need page-turners to help your boys get through a summer reading slump or hours in the car on a road trip, THESE ARE YOUR BOOKS!!

*** The verdict is still out on whether they're a good fit for girls. My 5th grade daughter just started reading them on the recommendation of her brother, who said, "They're a little violent, but I think you're mature enough to handle them." She's a fast reader, so I'll find out shortly if she's a fan.

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

THE RUNAWAY KING:  Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Powdered Milk, Budgets, and Blessings

I wrote this article almost four years ago and it was published this month in the Ensign, the Mormon church's monthly magazine.  Our financial situation has since taken a more positive turn, and I'm trying to stick to the resolve I made in the last paragraph -- it's always worth the effort.

Click HERE to read.