Friday, December 16, 2022

What is Your Strategy

Strike the Zither by Joan He

The Xin dynasty is divided.  Zephyr, a great strategist, has decided to help Xin Ren, a warlordess who is loyal to the empress.  But can Zephyr help Ren without Ren losing her honor?  

The book starts off quickly and introduces a cast of bold, interesting characters who grab you right from the start.  I was uncertain I liked them at first because they are all arrogant and self-important.  But there is something compelling about this rag tag group of underdogs and I couldn't help rooting for them even as I tries to figure out who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.  Or even if there were good guys and bad guys.  It was interesting to see the battles more from the strategy side as opposed to the fighting side.  I liked the different approach.  I was unsure about the big fantasy twist in the middle.  At first, I thought it was pointless.  But as I continued to read, I got a new perspective on characters that I thought I knew, and it started to make sense.  There is a lot going on here, a lot of pieces, plots and characters.  It is an epic story.  A story too big for one book so I was left hanging at the end, but I was engaged enough to want to come back for the next book.

I got a free copy of this book from Bookish First.

Monday, November 21, 2022

You're Okay


I'm So Happy You're Here by Liz Climo

These cute animals will give you a pep talk to get you through a hard day.

A host of adorable animals tell you things that everyone needs to hear sometimes:  don't listen to the haters, the mistakes from your past don't define you, believe in yourself, and such.  It is touching and heartening even though you have heard most of these messages before.  It is a good little book to read if you are having a day, or week, or life, where you feel badly about yourself, and it would make a great gift for a friend who is having a hard time.  

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Lunch at Midnight

Night Lunch words by Eric Fan pictures by Dena Seiferling

Owl runs a lunch cart for all the animals who come out at night.

The illustrations are beautiful.  I like how the sepia tones and lack of hard lines give it all a dream like quality.  And all of the animals that come to the cart are fun.  The story is nice, watching Owl make lunch for everyone and sharing what he has with a poor mouse who has nothing.  But I wish the words had more of a rhythm to them.  At times it starts to fall into a rhythm but never quite does.  It's a pleasant enough picture book but it isn't one I see myself reading to my niece and nephew over and over again.

I got a free copy of this book from, Early Reviewers.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

What is a cordial bar?

I wanted to go out and wanted to try someplace I had never been before.  And my husband and I also wanted someplace near a train stop because we planned to get drunk.  So, I looked around and found The Kenmore.  It was right by the Kenmore MBTA station.  The menu was mostly burgers and hotdogs, but I didn't want fancy.  Besides the "K" burger was only $5.95, and they had a good selection of sours, so it seemed perfect.

We get there on a Tuesday night at around 4:30.  It is not a big place but it was comfortable and inviting.  On a Tuesday night it was not busy and we easily got a seat at the bar.  We were told they had some specials where you could get a hotdog for a dollar or a burger for two.  We didn't try it so I don't know how big they were, but you can't complain much when you only pay two bucks for a burger.

We always start with a drink and we wanted some bourbon.  But we couldn't get any because they didn't have any.  The bartender told us they were a cordial bar and didn't carry it.  No straight whisky at all.  No straight anything as far as I could tell.  Fireball, Jack Daniels Honey, Dr. McGillicuddy's?  Sure.  But a drink of scotch, no.  They did have Slow & Low: Rock and Rye, which is a premixed old fashioned.  And since we were already there and didn't want to find some place else we settled for that.  It was tasty, a little sweet, but not what we were hoping for when we went out.  

The food was good.  We started with the steak and cheese eggrolls.  They were cheesy and crispy and delicious.  Then we both got the "K" Burger with a side of fries.  The burger was tasty.  It was not the biggest burger in the world but it was the size you expect for $5.95.  And the shoestring fries were delicious.  

I tried to get into the spirt of thing and got some Fireball.  Which I like.  So that was fine.  But then I asked for some amaretto and was told they had none.  No amaretto in a cordial bar?  I don't get it.  In fact, I really don't get the whole thing.  It's not that I don't enjoy a good cordial, but I want the option of getting a neat drink of whisky.

The service was... indifferent.  We got there between shifts, so we were served by two bartenders.  The first was, shall we say, casual.  She was attentive enough and gave me a sample of a sour because I finished off the sour on tap while I was there but she was not the friendliest bartender I've ever seen.  The second bartender spent more time sitting with his friend at a table than he did behind the bar.  I know it was a slow night but I had to wait for him to come back to order something a couple of times.

I can see that this might be a place some people might like to hang out in if beers are all you are after, but I will not be going back.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Campari oh, oh. Campari oh, oh, oh, oh.

Campari.  What is Campari?  The bottle just says 'product of Italy' and 'bitter'.  Which is accurate but not that very helpful.  If you Google it you get some more help.  It is considered an aperitif and is obtained by infusing herbs and fruit in alcohol and water.  I, personally, would not want to sip on Campari by itself.  Because it is pretty bitter.  But it does make some really tasty cocktails.

Siesta Cocktail - very well balanced so the bitter and the sour all come together into a very pleasant cocktail.

Jungle Bird

Jungle Bird
- is actually slightly sweet with the pineapple juice to counter the Campari

Garibaldi - simple, just orange juice and Campari, it is nice, not as bitter as I thought it would be

Boulevardier - a lot of deep flavors here so it is a rich cocktail, I think if you like


bourbon you will like this

Old Pal - another bourbon cocktail, this one with dry vermouth which makes it slightly lighter than the Boulevardier

Negroni - a classic, the bright flavor of the gin is a nice counterpoint to the Campari and vermouth

Pink Tutu - just a hint of Campari, a refreshing cocktail

Bobbo's Bride - the sweet peach liquor stops this one from being too bitter, but the Campari is in the
forefront, so it isn't sweet either

Lost Lake - a lot of fruit juice in this one gives it a tropical drink feel, it's tasty but you need a lot of ingredients

Mojito Italiano

Venetian Blush - another one that has some specialty ingredients, but it is worth it, this is one of my favorites

Mojito Italiano - the fizz of the soda is replaced by Prosecco, and the Campari adds a little depth

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

I feel like I'm drowning in this book

 Watersong by Clarissa Goenawan

Shouji runs afoul of some very important people and has to flee for his life.  But he has to do it without his girlfriend who is no where to be found.  Will he ever see her again?  Where could she possibly be?

I had a hard time deciding how I felt about this book.  There are some interesting concepts here.  But nothing ever really took full shape for me.  Everything felt hazy and unreal.  Shouji, and the reader, just seem to be floating along.  Going no where in particular, just letting the current take us... wherever.  And in the end I never got back to shore.  I was still lost at sea.  I can't say it was not entertaining to read.  But at the same time I can't tell you any particular part of the book I liked.  I didn't connect with any of the characters and none of the plot lines or scenarios felt very real.  And the whole thing left me feeling unresolved.  Like a trip that didn't go anywhere.  I will not be reading anything else by Goenawan.

I got a free copy of this book from, Early Reviewers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

It's all about the hair

 Frizzy written by Claribel A. Ortega, art by Rose Bousamra

Marlene has curly hair.  And she has been told all her life that it is not 'good hair'.  That to look her best she must get it straightened.  But why?  Why isn't her hair 'good hair'?  Why can't curly hair be pretty too?  Why can't she just be herself?  

This graphic novel, aimed a middle school aged children, is full of heavy issues: bullying, self-image, racism, growing up, standing up for yourself.  They are all handled deftly and the story never gets heavy handed.  I like the balance Ortega achieves in her characters.  Marlene is slightly defiant but not disrespectful of her mother.  Her mother doesn't understand Marlene but she is loving and not unkind.  It is a enjoyable journey as you watch Marlene try to navigate some tricky life issues.  She is being told to be herself but also being told (by the same person) that she should change.  She is very relatable as she tries to make her mother happy but at the same time not lose herself.  The ending is a bit idealized I think.  It almost seems too easy.  I think there would have been more tension in the real world.  But it is very satisfying and heartwarming.  The expressive, vibrant artwork is wonderful and brings this lovely story to life.  Anyone who has been told they are less because of who they are, or that they have to become someone they are not to fit in will relate to Marlene and her story.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Are you supposed to root for the bad guy?

 Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

Violeta wants to keep her brother safe.  So she has to keep his dark magic a secret.  But when the Lord of the land, Rowen, known as The Monster, finds out about it and wants to use his magic to break a curse she is not even sure who he needs protection from.  As they all work together Violeta realizes she may be the only one who has the power to break the curse.  But she may have to sacrifice everything to do it.

The story is dark and creepy.  I love the Lord Under.  He is sinister and evil but somehow still alluring.  The plot: the curse, the corruption, how it came about, and how they are going to fix it, along with the hints that you are going to find out a dark secret from Violeta's past, did keep my interest so I did want to get back to it every time I had to put it down.  But I don't like Violeta.  She is determined to save everyone whether they want it or not, in fact against their protests.  She keeps doing things she promised not to.  She keeps making decisions that affect everyone without consulting anyone.  She didn't come off as the selfless hero I think she was supposed to be and I didn't want her to be the hero of the story.  Although I was entertained the enjoyment was lessened because I spent much of the book wishing any other character was the protagonist.  I'm torn about reading the second book.  This one entertained me but it also irritated me a little.  But I have to admit that it did leave me wanting to know what happens next.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Ever Wish You Were a Warlock?


Dylan Dover: Into the Vortex by Lynne Howard

Dylan was a typical bullied teenager until one day he falls into a vortex that takes him to a whole new world.  He not only finds out that he is a warlock but that he has siblings that he never knew about.  Now with the help of his newly found brother and a wizard friend they have to solve the mysteries that surround his and his siblings birth and the prophecy that might foretell the dangers to two worlds.

Dylan is an ordinary boy.  Or so he thinks.  Then one day he finds out he is extraordinary.  It is not the most original of story starting points.  But the idea of an immortal world on the other side of a vortex is new and interesting enough to give the concept a new spin.  Dylan is a likeable enough hero that you root for him right from the start even when he is still in the human world.  And I'm glad that both Dylan and his birth parents worry about Dylan's poor adoptive parents who just lost a child.  But I think everyone is just a little too accepting of this situation.  This son that they were told didn't survive birth shows up and the parents just accept 'I don't know what happened' as an answer from the doctor who delivered them.  Dylan and his brother just settle into family life together like everything isn't extremely odd.  But the bad guy is appropriately sinister and creepy, and his minions are interesting characters because you can't really figure out whose side they are on.  And the mystery of the prophecy and what it means and how it relates to Dylan is enough of a draw that it keeps you reading.  It is a fun story and it leaves you wondering what will happen next.

I got a free copy of this book from, Early Reviewers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

What Do You Do With a Wounded Gryphon?

How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra

Giada comes from a long line of magical healers.  Healers of humans that is.  She wants to be a healer too, but of animals.  But that is forbidden.  She must decide if she will risk disappointing her family to follow her heart.  And when her brother disappears she must use all her skills and talents to find him.

This is a fun book.  Giada is feisty and rebellious and you hope she can convince her family to let her follow her heart.  At the same time she can act like a brat sometimes and you have to remember that she is 13 and still growing and learning.  I like that she is a flawed hero.  She is not always right and sometimes has to be reminded by her friends (who include an equally feisty cat familiar) that being stubborn and head strong is not always the answer.  One of the things that drew me to this book is the first place was the promise of mythical creatures.  I wish there were more of them here.  I liked the gryphons and that she 'talks' the the spider in her garden, but the animals were more often used by her as a means to an end instead of viewed as friends or something needing care.  But I found myself wanting to pick the book back up every time I had to put it down.  It drew me in.  There are a few elements I'm hoping get explored further in upcoming books but this is a complete story. There is no cliff hanger ending to make you read the next book.  But I don't need one.  I want to read more about these characters and the world they live in.

I got a free copy of this book from Bookish First.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Jurassic Parts by Byron Frimp and Maggio Slooter

Charlemagne Caine, a slacker and part time sleuth who seems to attract trouble, is going on a pre-wedding honeymoon with his fiancé, Fallon.  Along the way they run into mobsters, fossil thieves, serial killers, vigilantes, and maybe even Bigfoot himself.

I have to say, this really isn't my cup of tea.  There are four or five plots going on at the same time.  Some of the characters and places overlap but they never actually come together to form one story.  You have a vigilante running around and serial killers and a carnival town and plots and schemes and, and, and.  It was all too much for me.  It had some funny moments and wordplay and puns that I enjoyed.  I just wish the authors had picked one or two of these story lines instead of throwing them all at me at once.  We start with some stolen fossils and then we move on to so many other things that by the time we got back to the fossils I had forgotten about them.  And there are bits that I don't understand the point of.  At one point we are reading a whole radio broadcast.  The radio host does play a part in the story, but I didn't need to read four pages of his radio show.  And there is a van full of mystery solving teens with a dog who anyone can guess who they are supposed to be, but they had no impact on the story, they were just shoved in there.  I think Charlemagne and Fallon are interesting characters.  And I did enjoy the humor for the most part.  I think I would have liked a version of this that was about 300 pages shorter.  All the stuff going on should have kept the excitement up.  But there were so many plots and so many side trips, outside the plots, that seemed to go nowhere, that the whole book dragged for me.

I got a free copy of this book from, Early Reviewers.

Friday, September 9, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is Serpent by Michael Cole.  Some scientists think that the  cure for all sorts of diseases lies in the DNA of an ancient sea creature.  So they bring one back.  Of course he isn't friendly and of courses he escapes.  So far it is exactly what I expected it to be.  People getting eaten and someone trying to stop people from getting eaten.  If you like monster movies you will probably like this.

My Friday 56:

So far, there were no obvious signs of the creature.  In a way that was good, as some of those signs would include wreckage and death - something he was trying hard to prevent.

You would figure by now scientists would know better.  It never turns out well when you mess with nature.   

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Eggplant Anyone?

Eggplant Alley by D. Cataneo

13 year old Nicky is growing up in an apartment complex called Eggplant Alley.  Eggplant Alley, and indeed Nicky whole life, is changing.  Nicky is having a hard time understanding who is is becoming in the new circumstances he finds himself in.

In Nicky's world there is a very clear line between us and them.  And he is determined to protect his own against all comers.  You can empathize with Nicky's desire to hang onto the things that he loves: his brother Roy, stickball, and what he thinks of as the good old days when everyone was happy.  And you can understand his tendency to rant and rave against the people he thinks are taking those things from him, even though you don't agree with him.  And it becomes impossible not to like Nicky.  And I found myself rooting for him as he tried everything he could to get a game of stickball going. Cataneo does a good job of making all the characters real people and making you feel the tension and the turmoil of the time without demonizing one side or the other.  I truly enjoyed following Nicky as he tried to find his way in a world that is rapidly changing around him and as he is forced to see things from new perspectives. learning along the way that the line between us and them is often not as clear as he thought.

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is Jurassic Parts by Byron Frimp and Maggio Slooter.  There is so much going on in this book that I'm not even sure I can find a plot exactly.  There are vigilantes, Trekkies, Big Foot, dinosaurs and all sorts of things.  It is 500 pages long.  Not the longest book I've ever read but it feels like the longest book I've ever read.

My Friday 56:

"Now, you can play these little games and pretend to be noble because you have some code of super-crap, but cape-to-cape confidentiality is not recognized by the law.  You're not a priest and you're not a doctor."

Apparently, the police do not recognize superhero code of confidentiality.  

Man's Best Friend

Today (August 26th) is National Dog Day!  So, take a hike all you cat people.  Personally, I have never been able to choose between the two.  I love them both.  But today is all about dogs.

Hachi: A Dog's Tale starring Richard Gere

A college professor finds an abandoned dog at the train station and takes it home.

If you have ever had a pet that was part of the family, you will love this movie.  And you will probably cry.  If you have a friend who never understood how you could become attached to an animal, have them watch this movie and they might begin to understand.  The movie (that is inspired by a true story) is an ode to the relationship between man and dog.  First of all, Hachi is a beautiful dog, and you want to meet him and cuddle with him.  And you cannot help but to become emotionally involved with both the professor and the dog.  You are anxious at one point because as the audience you know something is coming when the characters don't.  You become completely invested in the story.  I was crying by the end.  As an animal lover I really liked this one.  And I think all animal lovers will feel the same.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Pizza (and a cat, and some rats, and a robot, and...) in Space

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris

When it is discovered that the moon is being eaten by rats from another galaxy a cat is shot into space to save the moon and Earth.

This is pretty hilarious, and the drawings are awesome.  The cat is adorable.  And I like that when someone looks or points at something they write out 'look' and 'point'.  The story is a lot of fun.  Does it make any sense?  Absolutely not.  And I loved it.  The cat goes to the moon where he runs into the queen of the moon, a whale, pirates and a million other things, some of which make even less sense than these examples.  He goes from one crazy scenario to the next with all sorts of fun characters.  Even though the cat only ever says 'meow' he manages to have a lot of personality and you can't help but love his little robot friend who is looking for his purpose.  I think everyone will chuckle when they hear the general exclaim 'My grammy's meat loaf' (and other such phrases).  The book is wonderful, silly fun from start to finish.  I think all age groups will enjoy following the cat and his friends on his mission.  You won't want to put it down until you know if the cat can save the world, and more importantly, if he ever gets any pizza.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Let's all Trumpet for Joy

Today (Aug. 12th) is World Elephant Day!  Because everyone in the world loves elephants!  Well, maybe not everyone.  But a lot of people love elephants.  Because they are awesome.  They are also big, and strong, and wild.  So like with most big, strong, wild animals I tend to keep my distance.  I don't care how 'tame' you say they are.  So, although I like elephants and really do believe they are awesome, I don't think I would want one living in my back yard.

An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

(from the back of the book) The bombing of Dresden looms ahead and Lizzie's mother, a zookeeper, persuades the zoo director to allow Marlene, a young elephant that has bonded with Lizzie and her younger brother, Karl, to be kept safe in their garden.

Their home is destroyed when bombs are dropped, so the family and Marlene have no choice but to flee with thousands of others in the dead of winter.  Though how can they walk the same route and keep themselves safe from approaching Russian soldiers...with an elephant in tow?

The story is sad, and sweet, and hopeful.  Lizzy, her brother Karli and their mother are trying to live their life with war looming.  Without knowing if their father is dead or alive; without knowing if they will be bombed today or not.  And then there is Marlene, a young elephant they are determined to save.  How do you go on when all that you have ever known is in flames?  The reader comes to love this family (that now includes an elephant) as they pull together to survive.  As they flee from the flames that was once their home, they see how hard times bring out the worst, but also the best in people.  When they meet a young RAF pilot they realize that the enemy is not so different from them.  Although Marlene becomes a focal point for the family that helps them through the war the story is less about the elephant than it is about the family as they struggle to survive and find hope, strength, compassion, love and determination within themselves.   

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Aliens Are Here. But Why Are They Here?

Before We Vanish starring Masami Nagasawa

Three aliens come to Earth and take over human bodies to prepare the way for an invasion.

I have to say that I found this movie interesting to watch but I can't say that it was good.  First off, it was very slow and meandering.  A lot of things happen that don't seem to go anywhere, and a lot of things happen that don't seem to make sense.  It's an interesting idea to explore what happens when someone loses a key concept.  When a workaholic loses the concept of work, does that diminish him or free him?  But i never understood why the aliens were collecting concepts.  Or why these three aliens had to come to Earth before the invasion.  Or why one fit in his human host just fine while one couldn't figure out how to use his human legs.  Or why they needed to build a communication device.  Or why they were doing anything they were doing.  The plot didn't feel cohesive to me.  So, if you have two hours to kill there are worse ways to spend it, but I could think of better ways to spend it too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Everybody Roar!

Today (August 10th) is World Lion Day.  The perfect day to go on safari!  But I'm not going to do that.  For several reasons.  One being that I might actually meet a lion.  And not one of the friendly ones from the following picture books.  And I don't want to be eaten.  So I will get my daily fix of all things lion from books.

Dandelion by Don Freeman

One day Dandelion the lion gets invited to a Tea and Taffy party by his friend, Jennifer Giraffe.  The invitation say to 'come as you are'.  But Dandelion does not follow directions and goes out and buys a new outfit, and gets his hair and nails done.  He wants to look fancy for the party.  But when he shows up he looks so fancy that Jennifer doesn't recognize him and won't let him in.  Dandelion learns that he should not try to be someone he is not.  (Although I hope that if I ever decide to get out of my jeans for a day and wear a dress my friends would still recognize me.  So maybe that says something about Jennifer too.)  It is a cute story about being happy with who you are.  I like the illustrations but the only color in the book is yellow.  I would have liked some more color.  I think kids will get a chuckle out of how Dandelion gets all dressed up but can't get into the party until it is all undone again.  It was first published in 1964 but it has held up well.

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

There is a lion in the library.  And since there are no rules against lions in the library he is allowed to stay as long as he follows all the rules.  He loves story time and learns to help the librarian in all sorts of ways.  But one day the lion has to break the rules to help his friend.  The illustrations are great.  The lion is very expressive and somehow the softer tones seem to fit the setting.  The story is cute.  At first everyone is a little nervous to have a lion in the library but he soon becomes everyone's friend and a very special helper to the librarian.  Then one day the lion has to break the rules to help his friend, knowing he will never be able to come back if he does.  But his friend is more important and the lion does the right thing, even at a cost to himself.  And people learn that sometimes, if there is a very good reason, rules can be broken.  I loved watching the lion dust shelves with his tail, and lift kids so they could reach high shelves and I felt for him as he sat in the rain looking through the window wishing he could go back in.  He is a very endearing character with a lot of personality even though he never says a word.  I think everyone will fall in love with this library lion.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Do You Love Books?

Today (August 9th) is National Book Lovers Day!  I love books.  I can never have too many books.  I probably own more books than I can ever read but I will never stop getting new ones.  But books are expensive.  So if you, too, like books but need to save your money for things like gas and food try these book giveaways.

Goodreads always has a bunch of book giveaways going on.  Check them out here

Book Riot has some books to give away as well.

To win Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor go here.  Ends August 15th.

To win The Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang go here.  Ends August 13th.

To win the Black Excellence Collection (27 books) go here.  Ends August 31st.

To win Fenris & Mott by Greg van Eekhout go here.  Ends August 11th.

To win an audio download of Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston go here.  Ends August 12th.

Writers Space has some great titles for you to win.

To win In the Pines by Kendra Elliot go here.

To win A Hellion in Her Bed by Sabrina Jeffries go here.

To win Dead Against Her by Melinda Leigh go here.

And there are many more.  To see the full list go here.

Fresh Fiction has some free stuff for you too.

To win three books from Kathy Lyons Grizzlies Gone Wild series go here.

To win Sea Glass Summer by Miranda Liasson go here.

To win a digital copy of Tie the Knot in Good Hope by Cindy Kirk go here.

There are too many to list here so to see what else you can win go here.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Of the Earth Review

Of the Earth by Kim Cousins

(from the back of the book) Following the lives of several people and animals, this story explores relationships in the midst of trials.  Living in a time of tribulation, the characters maneuver through precarious situations - a government reeducation program, a train hijacking, an earthquake - circumstances that occur with little warning.  But despite these hardships loyalties are tested and battle lines drawn.  Eyes are opened and hearts are pierced.

This is not your mother's bedtime story.  Starvation, disease, and natural catastrophes plague the earth in this futuristic account.  For readers who are daring, willing to step into a world of betrayals and miracles, fear and wonderment, crack open this cover

This is a Christian fiction novel.  The plot takes a back seat to the gospel message Cousins is trying to send here.  I don't think that is a bad thing.  I'm glad she didn't compromise her message to make the story more main stream.  But it will make the audience for this book much smaller.  It is a good story about what God will do for His people if they believe and follow Him.  When the 'World Government' takes over and the people are required to get a mark, Christians (and a few others) refuse.  Which not only makes them outlaws but, cuts them off from society.  So they start their own.  These people of faith see miracles and witness wonderous things and God is ever present with them.  But I was glad to see that Cousins didn't make it a fairytale; bad things still happen.  I like the bible verses in the footnotes so you can look up the relevant scripture for yourself.  But I'm not a fan of the animals talking.  Even though they can't talk to humans, it always struck me as slightly goofy and distracted from the message.  And most of the characters are black and white.  You are either a good guy or you are horribly evil.  There is no middle ground.  And there were a couple of thing in the plot that didn't add up for me.  The Peacekeepers (the police) arrest people without the mark and send them off to camps.  The Peacekeepers know where this whole community of unmarked Christians are and, although they harass them some, they let them stay together and free.  It is a good, strong Christian message, which is nice, but as a story I couldn't connect enough with it.  It is the first in a series but I will not be reading the others.

I got a free copy of this book from, Early Reviewers.

Friday, August 5, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo.  I liked this one.  It is sad and sweet and hopeful.  And it is inspired by a true story about a zookeeper who, during WWII, is told that if the city is bombed all the large animals will have to be shot so they won't escape into the city.  She saves a young elephant by taking her home and keeping her in the garden.  

My Friday 56:

No one had ever gazed into my eyes quite like this before.  I can only describe it as a look full of curiosity, kindness and love.

This is the daughter of the zookeeper and she is talking about the elephant here.  She must have been quite an amazing animal if this family that was fleeing, running for their lives, was unwilling to leave her behind.

Shucked if I Know

Today (August 5th) is National Oyster Day.  I have to admit that oysters are not my favorite seafood.  I have had some very tasty, cooked oysters but I tried raw oysters once.  I will never do that again.  But to each their own.  

I was surprised to find out how many books about oysters there were.  I could have chosen a number of nonfiction books, but I chose the cosy mystery one because it looked like it would be a lot more fun.  

Shucked Apart by Barbara Ross

(from the back of the book)  When Andie Greatorex is robbed of two buckets of oyster seed worth $35,000, she wonders if somebody's trying to mussel her out of business.  Could it be a rival oyster farmer, a steamed former employee, or a snooty summer resident who objects to her unsightly oyster cages floating on the beautiful Damariscotta River?  There's also a lobsterman who's worried the farm's expanding lease will encroach on his territory and Andie's ex-partner, who may come to regret their split.  Before Julia can make much headway in the investigation, Andie turns up dead, stabbed by a shucking knife.  Now it's up to Julia to set a trap for a cold and clammy killer....

This is the ninth book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series.  You don't have to have read any of the others to follow this one.  But it might help to connect with the main character if you have some background.  You do learn a lot about the oyster farming business.  You also learn a little about customs and phrases that are local to Maine.  Which gives you a nice sense of place for the story.  There are a lot of people and leads and suspects so you there are a lot of ways this can go, and it leaves you wondering how it will all work out.  It is an easy reading story that is fun as you try to follow all the clues along the way.  I do feel like I didn't get the connection with the characters the way I would have liked.  But that could be because I haven't read the other books.  And there is also an unfinished feel to an aspect of the story that will probably come up in the next book.  So, although you get a whole story here you never forget that it takes place in the middle of other stories.  It's okay.  It's fun and easy and fast.  But I never became so engaged that I feel the need to go back and read the previous books.

Friday, July 29, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is Of the Earth by Kim Cousins.  This is a religious fiction book where the U.S. government has fallen and a 'supreme leader' has taken over and rules with an iron fist.  I got it from the Early Reviewers program on so I will post a review at some point.

My Friday 56:

Missing his own family deeply, Miah felt tears well in his eyes.   Embarrassed, the teen picked up Carl, nuzzling his face in the cat's fur to hide his unwanted tears.  Carl didn't mind the subterfuge; he considered himself a man's cat anyway.

This is a story of faith in hard times.  Of the power of God in the lives of those who follow and trust in Him.  And it can tend to get preachy at times.  But my problem with the book is that the animals talk.  Not to the humans, but to each other.  And it strikes me as goofy every time.  Which takes away from the impact of the story for me.

Catch a Tiger by His Toe

Today (July 29th) is International Tiger Day.  Tigers are beautiful animals.  They are also scary.  So I have no desire to catch a tiger, by his toe or otherwise.  I don't think the originator of International Tiger Day meant for it to include mythical tigers, but that's too bad.  I chose to include them in my celebration of the day.

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

(from the book jacket)  When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni's Korean folktales arrives, prompting lily to unravel a secret family history.  Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers.  Now they want it back.  And when one of the tigers approaches Lily with a deal - return what her grandmother stole in exchange for Halmoni's health - Lily is tempted to agree.  But deals with tigers are never what they seem!

It's a touching story.  Lily is going through a lot.  She has just moved to a new place, she feels she can no longer talk to her sister the way she used to, she feels that nobody, not even her mom, ever really sees her, she is possibly losing her grandmother and then she starts to see tigers.  Lily is unsure if the tiger is real, and so is the reader.  But in the end it doesn't really matter because whether the tiger walked out of a Korean folktale or out of Lily's imagination, she is here to show Lily a way though the turmoil that has come into her life.  I like Lily.  And I feel for Lily as she tries to figure out what is the right thing to do, not just for her grandmother but for her family and herself.  You get to see Lily grow through the story and become her own person.  And as she tries to figure out what her future will be she learns about her family's past, and how that is a part of her too.  There are a few moments when I thought Lily was acting too young for her age and overly naïve.  And at the very end, when she realizes something about her sister it felt like it was just tacked on. It wasn't a complete surprise, you did get hints, but it was presented in a way that made it feel like an afterthought.  But my criticisms are small.  I enjoyed the book, grew to like the characters and cried a little with them in their grief.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

That's So Corny

Today (July 16th) is National Corn Fritters Day.  What does that mean to you?  Probably nothing.  But I
wanted to try corn fritters for Corn Fritters Day.  And since I don't know where to get ready made corn fritters I had to make my own.  I chose to use Quick and Crispy Corn Fritters from Small Town Woman, because both quick and crispy sounded like good qualities to me.  

Most of the ingredients you probably have in your house already.  I had everything but the actual corn.  You need 2 1/2 cups of corn for this recipe.  I bought two cans of corn and just had a little left over.  I used the optional creole seasoning because I happened to have some but if you don't, I don't think you need to go out and find some.

The batter comes together easily.  Kind of like making pancake batter.  So you just need a whisk and a bowl, not even a mixer or anything.

Once I had the quarter inch of oil heated I did the fritters in batches of three. 
I never had to add more oil but there wasn't much left by the end.  The recipe says to cook on each side until "golden brown and crispy".  But I didn't know how to judge that.  So, since it was like pancake batter, I judged it that way.  You will see bubbles rising up through the batter, and that's when I flipped them.  I had a bit of splashing with all the oil in the pan so just be careful...

They came out crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  And you get the change of texture and the pop of freshness from the corn kernels.  I have never had corn fritters before, so I don't know how they compare to other corn fritters.  But these were delicious.  If you like corn, I don't know how you could not like these.  They are good all by themselves but I ate them with some chicken that had a creamy sauce and they were also very good with a sauce.  I had some left over that I ate a few days later.  They had lost the crispiness but were still fluffy and delicious.

They are a nice, rather quick, pretty versatile, delicious side dish.  I will be making these again.

Friday, July 15, 2022

A Horse is a Horse Of Course Of Course

Today (July 15th) is National I Love Horses Day.  And who doesn't love horses, at least theoretically.  I like horses even though I have never ridden one, or even met one.  So, I guess it is more the idea of horses I like.  So to celebrate (without having any actual horses near by) I watched a couple of movies about horses.  Well, one horse in particular.

A wild stallion is caught but resists all efforts to train or break him and fights to return to his family and the wild.

First of all, I am glad the horses don't talk.  The narration is done by Spirit, the horse, (and I almost wish they left that out too) but the horses themselves don't talk.  They are, however, very expressive.  With a few neighs and some facial expressions (that I'm pretty sure real horses couldn't make) they communicate with each other and the audience just fine without words.   I like the animation, especially the sweeping landscapes.  And Spirit is a character you want to root for.  I thought the human characters were a little too black and white.  The colonel was too evil and Little Creek a little too perfect and understanding.  And the romance between horses was a little eye rolling for me but children probably wouldn't feel the same way.  There were a couple of improbable (if not impossible) things, but it is a movie so that is okay in my book.  There are a few moments where Spirit is being mistreated that might upset small children but other than that it is appropriate for most audiences.  It is a fun story with moments of excitement and couple of chuckles and a hopeful ending.

Spirit Untamed starring Isabela Merced

Lucky has to move from the city to a small frontier town.  She feels out of place and lost until she befriends a wild mustang.

This is not a sequel to Spirt: Stallion of the Cimarron.  The horse looks the same but it is not a continuation of that story, it is a completely new story.  That being said.  Lucky was a little too rebellious for me.  She does a million things her father tells her not to do and then talks her friends into running off and doing some very dangerous stuff.  I think we are supposed to admire her spirit and her desire to do what is right but she is still a child who is riding a horse that was never broken, through dangerous territory she is unfamiliar with to take on a gang of adult bad guys.  I don't think that should be put forth as a good thing.  The story is rather predictable in a lot of ways as well.  The whole thing just felt a little flat to me.  It felt more like a Saturday morning cartoon than it did a feature length film.  I'm not sorry that I watched it but I would not have missed much if I hadn't watched it either.