Month: February 2020

Book Review: What We Found in the Corn Maze and How It Saved a Dragon by Henry Clark

“What We Found in the Corn Maze and How It Saved a Dragon” by Henry Clark is an absolutely wonderful book! I’ll admit upfront that I am a good bit older than the target demographic, but I enjoyed it every bit as much as my son. We actually made quite a game of stealing it back and forth from each other to read the next part!

What I Loved:
1. The plot! It was lots of fun, with quirky magic, entertaining characters, and great world-building, both in the regular world and in the parallel magical one.

2. The characters! The main characters were well-drawn and believable. It’s nice to see middle-school-aged kids portrayed as clever, loyal, and caring. In real life, most of them are, and it’s nice to see something other than the complete brats that usually populate books and tv shows. Modesty’s quirky family (who are mostly off-screen) are described well enough to provide plenty of laughter for the reader. A spin-off book along the lines of “Modesty and Her Sisters Shop at the Mall” could be hilarious! Regardless, kudos to the author for getting middle school kids just right!

3. The subtle humor! Yes, there was plenty of not-so-subtle humor, which I also enjoyed. But how can you NOT love a magical world in which people enjoy reading about “Mary Potter, Girl Scientist”?

4. The positive messaging! In a real world full of doom and gloom, it’s nice to see a book that shows kids using their brains, working together, and actually making a difference. I loved how they made the “Magical Minutes” work for them, despite the apparent uselessness of some of the spells. The “take-care-of-the-environment” and “stand-up-to-bullies-even-if-they’re-the-ones-in-charge” messages were also timely and age-appropriate.

Overall, I 100% loved this book. I recommend it to everyone, regardless of age or ability to enjoy stories about magical-doorways-in-refrigerators.

Five out of five extra-large chunks of Monterey Jack!

Book Review: The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin

“The Land Beneath Us” by Sarah Sundin is the third book in a trilogy. However, it is the first one I’ve read, and I thought it stood alone nicely. Of course, now I’m interested enough to go back and read the others, but there was nothing in this one to indicate it was Book 3 (except the statement on the cover).

Told in two parallel points of view (main characters Leah and Clay), this historical novel is set around D-Day, both overseas as part of the invasion, and stateside, near a military training center. The author skillfully weaves in a lot of information about historical events, daily life, and the mindset of various parts of society. I enjoyed the new things I learned, and the book never felt like a history text. All of the information shared was a natural and easy-to-read part of the story.

The romance between Leah and Clay was handled beautifully. They got to know each other primarily through a series of exchanged letters, which gave the reader plenty of opportunity to truly understand how the two were beginning to care about each other. Normally, when two characters love each other, but each believes the feelings aren’t reciprocated and pulls away, I just want to shake both of them. In this situation, because of character background I won’t share to avoid spoilers, that trope works well. I honestly believed what each person was feeling, and could understand their logic. The author wrote a potentially awkward arrangement with empathy and beauty, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Both characters are Christians at the beginning, and it was nice to observe how their faith guided their thoughts and actions. Clay was able to grow a good bit spiritually through the events of the story, and Leah’s beautiful, almost child-like faith was an inspiration.

I was lucky enough to read this book as part of a group read-and-discuss program, and enjoyed it even more due to having others with whom to compare ideas and impressions. If you read it on your own, the author has thoughtfully included some quality questions at the end for you.

In conclusion, there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about this book.

Five out of five perfect, soft wedges of Brie!

Book Review: The Book of Candlelight by Ellery Adams

“The Book of Candlelight” by Ellery Adams is the eagerly-awaited third book in the Secret, Book, & Scone Society series, and it is perfect! The series is centered upon Nora, a woman with scars both physical and emotional. Nora runs a bookshop and often helps customers heal from emotional trauma by suggesting just the right mix of books. In addition to running her business, she encounters multiple mysterious situations in this installment: murder, a strange man who seems to be stalking her, a long-hidden object, and a missing personal item.

Many cozy series tend to bog down at around this point, but Ms. Adams’ series just keeps getting stronger and better. This is primarily due to the impressive depth of her character development. In addition to the main character, each of her group of close friends (and even some more secondary characters) are given fully-fledged personalities that grow and change from book to book. I look forward to learning more about each person as the series moves forward.

The mysteries (there are multiples in this story) are well-plotted, with enough clues and information provided to the reader to keep things interesting, but never enough to make the answer obvious. The more serious crimes may or may not be intertwined, and there’s also the mysterious stranger that has been spotted around town. In addition, Nora makes some new friends and takes an interest in a local inn that is being renovated. As part of this storyline, we unravel a mystery from the past along with Nora, which adds an interesting element to the book.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of other great things!

1. Sheldon, a new character in town, with an intriguing personality. He also enjoys naming cats, which I think will be relevant in future books.
2. Nora and Jed’s evolving relationship. Nora is giving serious thought to the nature of this relationship, and sees something that makes her ask some questions. Kudos to the author for the way she lets Nora handle this situation!
3. The dogs. Pets don’t play a huge role in this series, but I was happy to see what is happening with Henry Higgins (Jed’s dog) and another dog taken in by a member of the police force.

Honestly, I can’t offer high enough praise for “The Book of Candlelight”. It includes everything a cozy is expected to have, but brings so much more to the table. This is one of those rare cozy series that I would happily read without the mystery. I would enjoy simply reading more about the lives of the characters, and the daily non-murder-related happenings in Nora’s business and town.

Overall, five out of five chunks of perfect Gouda!