Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Descent by Tim Johnston...Review


By Tim Johnston

Copyright 2015

                Tim Johnston, author of ‘Descent’, did a good job of keeping me interested in his story throughout the 374 pages of his telling. Set in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado the scenery was breathtaking. I could imagine the mountains, the thin air, the fog snaking through the trees, and the biting cold of winter as well as the radiant sun through the summer. It helped that my family took a vacation to this very setting while reading it, but I could have been transported there either way, being there just gave it more texture.

                Caitlyn is an 18yo girl when the story begins; she is a runner from Wisconsin about to go to college on a track scholarship. She and her family decide to take a trip to Colorado from their home in Wisconsin so that she can train in the mountains before starting school. She and her 15yo brother head up the mountain trail early one morning alone, mom and dad stay at the hotel, Sean (brother) is on his mountain bike. Dad gets a phone call while they are gone, hikers have found Sean unconscious with a badly broken leg, he is in the hospital. Dad asks for Caitlyn, there is no Caitlyn. There starts the remaining part of the book. Where is Caitlyn? How her family deals with her disappearance, the turns each of their lives take, and how they go about looking for her in a place far from their own home makes for interesting reading and kept me curious about where it was going to lead.

                I can’t say much more about the story itself without telling its secrets. It bounces around to different viewpoints throughout the novel, sometimes I liked this, sometimes I didn’t. It also slid into different time periods, I found this a little confusing, I would have to stop and make sure I understood where, and what time in the story I was in. Once I got further in the book this got less noticeable, and it read more smoothly. I found the book good enough that I wanted to keep reading, but not one I would call a favorite or a page turner. There just wasn’t enough suspense for me, I felt like I knew too much too soon. I also never really felt completely invested in the characters. I was detached from them as if I were reading a story in the newspaper about people I didn’t know, instead of being in a story about people close to me that I cared about.

                I found it to be well written, and constructed nicely. The author had some very good metaphors, similes, and descriptive adjectives that helped me visualize the story and added rich ambience throughout. The “aspens chattered”, the “woods of the mountains went on and on like the sea”, and “the sun on the lake was a rich, wobbling yolk of deep yellow”. The deep, binding love of family and the destruction a tragic event can cause to a family and its individual members was a strong and vivid theme. “And if the country was no longer strange to them, it was still strange in that it had never again astounded them, nor awed nor excited them again, but only reminded them every day and almost from hour to hour what it had taken from them and what it had made of them.” I liked this quote because I could imagine that is exactly how I would feel in the same circumstances. Our family visited Colorado with awe struck visions of the gorgeous mountains, snow, and trees ahead of us, but if one of us had disappeared while we were there, all of those things would have changed dramatically in our minds. Every piece of the story was well thought out, researched, given plausibility, and described in every detail. All the loose ends were tied up, and I was satisfied with the ending.

                I would have a hard time putting this in a genre, there wasn’t a lot of mystery, or suspense, and it wasn’t really a thriller. There were a couple small twists, but most of the time you knew what was happening even if the characters themselves didn’t know. I would recommend ‘Descent’ to anyone who enjoys reading a well written story about crime and its rippling affects to family and people.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner...Book Review

Skippyjon Jones

By Judy Schachner

Copy Right 2001

      Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner is another one of my all time favorite children's books. I just love reading it snuggled up to a little one, or to a whole group of little ones. I got this one back in 2001 when it was first published, but there are many in the Skippyjon series now. Every time I see a new one I buy it, but this one is still my favorite.
      Skippyjon is a Siamese cat that likes to pretend he is anything besides a cat, but a Chihuahua is his favorite thing to be, much to his mommas chagrin. He is always into mischief, and his momma is forever getting after "Mr. Kitten britches." She sends him to his room to think about how he is a cat, "Not a bird...not a mouse or a grouse...not a moose or a goose...not a rat or a bat! You need to think about just what it means to be a SIAMESE CAT!!" So Skippyjon sulks to his room, but he can't stay still for long. He bounces on his big boy bed and as he catches himself in the mirror he sees..."A Chihuahua!" (That was always my youngest wild thing's favorite part, I would have to read it over and over.)
      Then Skippyjon wanders into his closet where he meets the Los Chimichangas band of Chihuahua's and all sorts of things begin to happen. It is such a cute, sweet, FUN story. I love getting into it with different voices and facial expressions. I usually have the kids rolling before it is over. I also like asking questions about it when it is over, and my favorite question is, "Do you think Skippyjon REALLY did all those things in the story?" I love to see how many little ones can infer from the story that he was pretending, and how many think it really happened.
      This is a great addition for anyone who likes to have a good stock of children's books, or the perfect library book to check out, and it would make a great gift!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Vampire Dairies 3 & 4, The Fury and Dark Reunion...Book Review

The Vampire Diaries 3 & 4

The Fury & Dark Reunion

By L. J. Smith

Copyright 1991

                L. J. Smith did a good job in 'The Fury' and 'Dark Reunion', the third and fourth novels in the 'Vampire Dairies' series, of continuing on with the story without a hitch. Again, as with the first and second I am reviewing them together because I read them together. I really enjoyed the third one, ‘The Fury’, it stuck to the same characters and story line as the first two. I continued to care about each of the teens and what happened to them, and I was interested in what would happen next in the story.

                There were still vampires and other supernatural beings preying on Fell’s Church, and it was still the same setting in the small Virginia town. There was less about high school or small town life in this one though, and more about an “other power” that is preying on the towns people. There is still quite a bit of folklore and history woven into the story, and mystery behind who people are and why they are doing things. I don’t want to say too much about plot as it would give away some of the mystery and fun of reading these.

                I liked her continued theme of good fighting to stay good, even in the face of evil being the victor. Matt asks Stefan in Dark Reunion, “The world. You’ve seen a lot of it, Stefan. You’ve got four or five centuries on the rest of us, right? So what’s the deal? I mean, is it basically the kind of place worth saving or is it essentially a pile of crap?” and “And what about people, huh, Stefan? The human race. Are we the disease or just a symptom?” Stefan replies, “So what are you going to do, Matt Honeycutt, if every bad thing you said is true? What are you going to do personally? Are you going to stop fighting and swim with the sharks?” and “There’s no excuse for giving up just because it looks like we are going to lose. We have to try-because the other choice is to surrender.” I cut this dialog down, the whole exchange was good, but that’s the gist of it. That’s what’s so great about Stefan, he is always fighting to be good even though he is inherently bad because he is a vampire, even though giving in to temptation would make him stronger and on the winning side, he still wants to be good because that is his character. It is refreshing to read about a person in a story that values their own character, and staying good even when faced with so much bad.

There were more things I didn’t like about these two than the first two though. There were several loose ends that were never tied up by the time I got to the end, and things that happened that weren’t explained very well. This may have been on purpose so she could write more though, and indeed she did write more in 2009. Although, I have to wonder if she wrote more because she planned to all along, or if the t.v. show coming out about that same time had anything to do with it.

                One of the main characters was barely in the fourth one at all. I didn’t like that; it made the tone of the fourth book very different, so that it felt like it was missing something, in a negative way.  The ending was good, as far as being happy, but even this felt a little contrived at that point. Dark Reunion just ended up twisting and turning in ways that I wasn’t really satisfied with.

                All in all I think this was a good series, well thought out for the most part and sticking to its theme of good versus evil, and being true to self regardless of the consequences. I would recommend it to any teen or adult that enjoys supernatural thrillers. 



Saturday, November 7, 2015

the Art of Marching

     Today I had to highlight my eldest wild things marching band, The Marching Green Pride, as an art post. Marching band is something many people know very little about, but is so much fun and full of all different kinds of art. There is the music, the uniforms, the show itself, and the designing of all the different formations and props used in the show. Plus, the color guard and the band perform together, and the color guard does a lot of dancing and visual aspects, like their flags, for the show. So many people have to work together to make the show a success.
      The show isn't just there for the football games, as many people think they are, they have their own competitions that they participate in. The competition is stiff and they work many hours to perfect their show to have a chance to compete at the state level. My daughters last competition of the season was last week. They received second place at the area level, so unfortunately they will not get to compete at state this year, but they did a great job! Second place out of eight, very good bands, is awesome! They worked super hard this season, and all of the fans and parents are very proud of them! Their show was titled "To the Edge", and the edge is definitely where they took it.
      The show/band that won was also very good. It gave me chills when I saw it! Their show was called "A Royal Tapestry". It centered around a queen. In the beginning a King and Queen walked through a path in their tin soldiers (band) and waved at the audience.
      That's them waving at everyone. There was a stage upfront with a giant chair that the king went up and sat in. Just as he got up there an evil man in black came up and challenged him to a duel, much to the queen's dismay. The music to all of the acting going on was mood setting, it told you this was a scary time for the king, queen, and their subjects.
      There they are dueling. The king gets killed, darkness reigns. At first the queen is devastated, she runs to the dead king crying and unsure what to do. She walks forlornly among her musical subjects, but slowly she gains more strength among her people, by the time she gets back to the stage she is defiant and ready to conquer what lies ahead for her. The dark man comes back, she picks up the kings sword and duels with him. A little shaky at first, but then STAB!! She gets him, and he dies...the crowd, and her subjects are so excited!! At that same moment a villager (color guard) runs out of the sea of tin soldiers and subjects, throws his rifle high in the air, leaps off the stage and catches it at the crescendo of the music!! WOW!! Everyone went wild....the queen, and goodness prevails after all!! The queen runs to her castle (prop), the villager runs to get her. He leads her back to the stage, parting the tin soldiers with arm movements as they go. They get to the stage and he crowns her with the kings crown to everyone's cheers...goose bumps.

      That is the queen taking her seat on her throne. It was perfect, and inspiring. Even their slogan was awesome (yes, the schools even come up with their own slogans and make t-shirts around them), it was "Why live when you can Rule", I mean..... I loved our show, and I know how hard our kids worked, so me saying all of this is not me trying to take anything away from them, but I felt the right show won. Ours didn't have as much of a story line, and theirs just had that extra special sparkle that this art lover cannot deny. What I can say is for our band to have received second is really saying something! Our kids did wonderful, I thought their performance was the best they had given all year long. I am already looking forward to next years season/show!!
      I sure love my little clarinet playing tin soldier!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Passenger

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by http://breakingthespine.blogspot.com/   that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection by me is:

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Expected Publication Date: January 5, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Passenger (Passenger, #1)
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever
Hardcover, 464 pages
Expected publication: January 5th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Why this book?...The cover alone is beautiful and draws me to it!! I love that the main character is a violin prodigy; classical musicians are not characters that are often used in books, but my daughter plays clarinet and loves orchestra, so I can relate to, and like that trait in a character. The time travel aspect means there will be a lot of historical references, locations, and atmospheres woven in. The piecing together of clues also means there will be some mystery...Can't wait!    


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Parts by Tedd Arnold...Review

by Tedd Arnold
Copyright 2000
      'Parts' by Tedd Arnold is a hilarious book that I always get great feedback for when I read it to elementary classes. It is about a young boy who keeps having things happen to his body that he doesn't understand. Like lint in his belly button, or earwax in his ears. He starts thinking all of these things mean he is falling apart. One of my favorite lines from the book is, "The glue that holds our parts together isn't holding me!"
      Every time I read it the kids love to say, "Eeeeeewww!" and "GROSS!" after every page. I usually get lots of, "Read it again" from my audience as well. It is gross, but so clever and hilarious. It feels like it is really written by a young boy, as you can imagine one thinking the things that are written in the book.
      I would recommend this book to anyone with kids age 3-10...and even older would think it was funny. I do! It is also great to read out loud to classrooms full of young kids, it keeps their attention very well. Happy Reading!!