The first mark of an exceptional trilogy lies in the introductory book's ability to lay the foundation of a compelling story that's worth carrying forward into a series. Part 1 of 'The Tinker and the Fold', The Problem with Solaris 3, performed admirably in this regard, creating a superior work hard to put down; but the meat of a three-volume series lies in its ability to continue an exceptional approach past the first introductory volume and into later books.
The Rise of the Boe performs admirably in this respect, and opens with a foreword that places the story in perspective (for newcomers who have not previously imbibed of Solaris 3) so that all readers enter on an even playing field of prior knowledge. The saga begins where Solaris 3 left off, in a world changed by aliens, Ten Laws, The Fold's miracles and dictates, and a humanity at odds with their newly managed lives.
After his father's disappearance, Jett ("The Tinker") and his family is relocated for his own safety, and Jett is sick at heart for all the changes he's helped introduce to his life and everyone around him. Jett decides to rescue his father from The Fold's rehabilitation base on Solaris 3, but faces new challenges when a miscalculation lands him in the middle of another alien force; this one scheming to bring down The Fold.
The story doesn't open in this sci-fi scenario, however, but in the rehabilitation center on Pluto where Dweller Jett Senior is being tested in a rehabilitation simulation that places him back in the Iraq War where his life-or-death decisions will reflect whether his destructive impulses have truly been changed.
The efforts and purposes of this brainwashing and retraining session are made startlingly clear, reinforcing the underlying methods and purposes of The Fold's presence on Earth.
Betrayal, alien monkey-cats, a god powerful and feared by the Boe, and twin brothers on a mission makes for a gripping story that doesn't limit itself to a single aliens species or galactic setting, but continues to expand the boundaries of worlds introduced in Solaris 3.
As Jett and his brother face a deadly 'blood mist' and a force that rivals The Fold, they must make some terrible choices and face their consequences in a story line that is satisfyingly complex and an astounding piece for a middle-grade author, even given a father's collaborative participation in the process.
It's the stuff of movies (one can only hope a screenplay will come next); but if these two volumes are any indication, Book 3 will be well worth waiting for - especially since the Boe are not done here, despite Jack and Jett's best efforts.
Four years ago a father and son collaborated on a fun project to write a science fiction story; an effort that was to blossom into something more than a one-time partnership. The Tinker and the Fold: The Problem with Solaris 3, sees their effort brought to full fruition in this first book of a trilogy, a result of that process; but if readers anticipate a genre read replete with conventional devices, they will immediately realize there's far more happening here than a predictable story line.
Many sci-fi reads for young adults revolve around events and characters which don't stand out from the crowd. Not so with The Problem with Solaris 3, which opens with sassy young Jett's increasing defiance of the status quo. His attitude crosses over from school to life in general, and though his twin brother Jack strives to blend in, Jett is determined to carve his own path and personality as he navigates his world.
It's this attitude that earns the eighth grader a unique place in the scheme of things to follow when his proclivity for tinkering attracts the attention of The Fold, a galactic peacekeeping organization, and leads to quite a different kind of alien abduction than popular literature portrays.
From an invention that tests his mother's quantum theories and opens the door to strange new worlds to Jett's place not just on Earth, but in the universe, The Problem with Solaris 3 succeeds in going where few other young adult science fiction reads can follow, transporting its readers to a unique universe replete with kidnappings, unexpectedly hilarious alien invasions, and a "must have" list of tools that includes impeccable and funny logic.
Each chapter adds a dose of humor and wry observation that defies normal sci-fi approaches. Each builds upon Jett's clever, creative character and the strange worlds he encounters, which are graphically and beautifully described from a pre-teen's viewpoint. Even when dialogue and extraterrestrial encounters are taking place, the sassy, spunky interactions between characters are fun and refreshingly original.
The difference between a one-dimensional, predictable sci-fi read for young adults and one which is a standout in its genre often lies in a combination of author approach and fresh, original details; and the father-son team of Evan & Scott Gordon succeed in going where few writers (much less family authors) have gone before.
Rich in characterization, plot, development, and humor, the story unfolds as a winner and is highly recommended not just for the young adult audience it's intended for; but for many an adult sci-fi fan looking for the truly remarkable standout read that includes thought-provoking reflections on the nature of peace, collective consciousness, and ruling systems.
Donald Trump: The Man Who Would Be King is best read before the November 2016 elections, while his bid for the presidency is still active and immediate, and is recommended reading for all sides, no matter what political stance is being adopted: Republication, Democrat, or other.
Unlike most Trump coverages on the market, Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince employ a tabloid-style approach to create an especially lively tone, compiling newsworthy ironies, inconsistencies, and outrageous events just as they did in their prior books; but they also add a deeper level that belays any perception of Donald Trump: The Man Who Would Be King as being just a Hollywood-style gossip piece.
They take the time to examine not just Donald, but the Trump family's history and its evolutionary process, then delve deeply into how "The King of Debt" rose to arrive where he is today.
Ordinarily over 700 pages of close inspection would prove too daunting for readers seeking quick, succinct coverages; but one of the driving forces behind Donald Trump: The Man Who Would Be King lies in its ability to synthesize an unbelievable amount of information into a format and presentation which blends lively irony with outrageous observations, entertaining even as it presents eye-opening information in a format accessible to all.
Politics dovetail with American obsessions and fascinations with trends, figureheads, drama, and sizzling news stories, but blend well with the observations of sociologists, psychologists, politicians, and others in a wide range of fields who lend their expertise and insights to create a much broader review of the Trump phenomena than a more casual book could provide.
The result is a 'must read' for any American interested in issues of race, freedom, equality, and justice - and for any non-American who wonders just what is going on behind the scenes in this country's latest election debacle.
Supernatural machinery is nothing new to fantasy (many a young adult and preteen read have included magical equipment), but a talented typewriter is something different, which Elizabeth discovers when a gift from her grandfather spells out new powers in the form of secrets revealed.
One delightful aspect of this story line is the old-fashioned type sprinkled throughout the pages, which capture the typewriter's special font and clarify that the messages are coming from a machine.
Another is the fact that a family curse brings granddaughter and grandfather together on a problem-solving mission spiked with supernatural overtones. As Elizabeth narrates her family's heritage and her increasing involvement with the magic typewriter that will change lives and destinies, she thoroughly involves readers in the quest: "The machine sighed to sleep with the flip of the red off button. I drew in a deep breath, stuffed Jack’s last postcard in my front jean pocket and stood eerily still. Jack, I thought. After all this time, he would finally be standing inside my house. The place he used to treasure before the bomb went off in both of our lives. It didn’t seem like today would ever come."
Mystery and supernatural elements are paired with strong characterization, believable scenarios and motives, and a host of challenges that keep Elizabeth and Jack on their toes. Readers follow the clues along with the investigator duo and will enjoy an ever-quickening pace as the two race against time to solve a series of impossible problems, with the Royal typewriter pushing them to hone their sleuthing skills before it's too late.
The result is a beautifully written page-turner recommended for young adult readers: one that does an excellent job of building its plot and characters and surrounds them with a mystery spiced with the dilemma of a Royal curse that may prove undefeatable, if the two family members can't solve it once and for all: "I repeated the sinister words the vendor chanted, “One thousand and forty years the curse will remain until the rightful owner shall turn back the hands of time and correct a Royal mistake. The secret will eat away at those who come to play like a disease.”
Of Dust and Tides is a short story collection about new adults just entering the adult world, and provides a range of characters and visions about how this world changes and challenges its new arrivals.
Take eighteen-year-old Dorrie, who sets off on a mission to find a long-absent father, Ollie, and discovers the meaning of rock gods, accidents of birth, and blood ties as she confronts a man whose world doesn't include 'nice girls', even if they are kin. Dorrie's uncertain connection with him leads her full-circle to discover what is really of value in her world in 'Ollie's Daughter'.
For a different perspective, turn to 'Portrait of Jori', in which an art student's life is changed by the man he becomes involved with. Art community scandals and politics, high-class living and patrons with unusual tastes, and issues of trust amid the trappings of wealth all emerge as themes in a thought-provoking tale of talent and the real cost of benefactors who take over lives.
Another powerful winner is 'Impure Earth', where the world is unprepared for a challenge to the status quo of the Pures and Assorteds, and survival tactics become steeped in rage and love alike. In such a future, war is forbidden and a thing of books and legend - and in such a world, it must be faced and fought again, introducing many new tests to a society carefully reconstructed to include cyborgs and strict rules.
In such a world, whoever has control is not necessarily the same as he who wields wisdom, as Tarquin and Immurra come to discover when they head a new kind of force and influence on the future of a broken society unfamiliar with the word 'revolution', among others.
Each carefully-crafted story provides a different perspective on evolving connections, adult lives, and new ventures. Each very different tale presents stories of survival, confrontation and change; and each follows characters that grow from their encounters.
Of Dust and Tides is replete with new beginnings and how they happen, and is an outstanding gathering especially recommended for new adult readers venturing into the world, offering lessons on its challenges and growth opportunities using succinct language and close encounters that pair disparate individuals and cross-purposes with paths that ultimately lead to connections and hope.
Book 1 of the 'Lucy' series is set in 1970s England and tells of eight-year-old Lucy, who has lived most of her life locked in a small closet until one day her angry stepfather takes her into the woods and abandons her.
One might think that, like Hansel and Gretel, disaster will come of this move; but in fact Lucy thrives in her new wilderness world outside of the closed-in room that has been her life. In the process of adapting to the outdoor wonders she has only read about in books, she comes to feel a new kind of freedom and appreciation for life.
Despite her friendship with a boy who helps her, and her ability to adapt, Lucy's not out of the woods yet: when authorities discover a child living alone in nature, they 'rescue' her and take her to an orphanage where, once again, she is bullied and abused.
One notable feature of Lucy in Her Secret Wood is its focus, not on the abusive situations, but on Lucy's sense of wonder as she discovers the good in her world. Her closed-in life serves, in this case, as a backdrop for the sense of appreciation she evolves for nature (wild though it may be), and the focus is on this sense of growth and discovery and not just upon the abuse she endures.
Gorgeous color paintings enhance the feel of Lucy's woods experience and the comfort it involves, while dialogue throughout reflects Lucy's respect for the newfound world she moves through.
Now, all is not sweetness and light in the woods: Lucy discovers she lacks and requires very basic survival skills despite the efforts of her new friend's help, and in the course of her explorations, she learns survival and problem-solving skills.
As advanced elementary to early middle school grades read about Lucy's evolution, it becomes evident that her story is about more than abuse, escape, and an appreciation of nature: it's about healing, recovery, and how to maintain a sense of wonder and appreciation of surrounding beauty.
In this respect, Lucy in Her Secret Wood offers an appealing window of opportunity for kids of all ages to reconnect with the world, use art to express these connections, and ultimately arrive at better places in life where hopes, dreams and promises do come true.
Lucy in Her Secret Wood offers a message, not just of survival, but how to choose positive paths that wind through the world's negative influences, making it a recommended children's novel for many reasons.
Forever Gentleman is a historical novel set in Victorian London and blends the author's love for architecture, music and history as it steeps its story in the sights, sounds, and flavors of the era and follows Renaissance man Nathan, whose struggles as an architect and a musician bring him in contact with the ladies and lords of high society.
Nathan's gifts bring him love in unexpected places; but they also are challenged by his economic misfortunes and by threats that give him clear choices between romance or seeking safety in another country.
From the squalor of Debtor's Prison to judges, courtroom dramas, and the beckoning possibilities of a new life that takes his beloved piano concertos to new heights, Forever Gentleman is about a young man finding his place in society and the social trials and snafus (and romance) that confront him along the way.
Readers who like atmospheric, sweeping historical sagas cemented by the personal goals, observations, and challenges of protagonists who interact on many levels will relish Forever Gentleman's special ability to turn out a rollicking good read while remaining true to the history and influences of its times.
It's a romance, it's a mystery, and it's a history all wrapped into one satisfyingly beautiful production, and is highly recommended for anyone who appreciates a depth and attention to detail that results in a powerful story line.
Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefits provides a follow-up to Walter M. Brasch's prior, acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania; expanding the subject's scope and using some of the Pennsylvania settings as examples in a wider-ranging assessment of fracking's environmental, economic, and political impact on America.
Because many fracking discussions focus on environmental impact, it's satisfying to see an account that moves well beyond the usual focus to analyze some of the other reasons why fracking is an unusually dangerous pursuit. The wide-ranging discussions move from theological perspectives on fracking (from religions that include admonitions to care for the environment) to connections between industry interests and political maneuvering, which have influenced politicians to create laws skewed toward industry benefits and against public health and environmental concerns.
Dr. Brasch isn't just a naysayer who fills chapters with emotional rants: he offers a studied, rational series of analyses centered around the mechanics of fracking and its impact on different levels. And while it may be his third book on the topic (at first, he didn't want to write any of them; initially not wanting to take the time and effort to learn about engineering, geology, and political practices involved in any real in-depth treatment of the subject), Fracking America may well be his most important yet.
As Dr. Brasch delved into the mechanics of the natural gas fracking process, he became more and more convinced it is a bad idea on many levels - and Fracking America continues this conviction by gleaning more hard evidence from fracking operations across the country.
Readers should anticipate the same attention to detail and facts as in his other books on the subject. Charts, graphs, and footnoted references to CAC studies, news reports, scientific papers and documents support his contentions and provide authority to support every statement. While the prevalence of so many footnoted references (several thousand) may seem daunting to some, these serve to not only support Dr. Brasch's contentions, but provide annotated references readers can turn to (almost all of them presented as website links) for their own research.
Discussions and assessments of renewable energy resources around the world, their locations, and their potentials round out what has to be the most authoritative, well-researched, rational and evidence-based discussion of fracking in America to hit the book market to date.
Fracking America is highly recommended for anyone studying the subject at any level, whether they are newcomers to fracking or activists who have only researched environmental impact, and need to fill in the blanks on political processes and impacts that hold important questions about American freedoms and political maneuvering.
Open with a typical student soccer game in which player Jack declines team celebrations at the end of a successful game to examine an illuminated device on his ankle in the privacy of the still-empty locker room, then flees. But there's something extraordinary in the method of his flight and in his ride home, implying that Jack is not the ordinary soccer-playing schoolboy he portrays.
Not every boy has a secret compartment in his closet and a jetpack accompanying his lunch bag. No normal boy can rocket into the sky through his rolled-back bedroom ceiling. And what boy can face his greatest enemy with nary a quiver? Nobody, it turns out - even Jack. But, a boy can dream!
In a world that constantly challenges Jack to be extraordinary, he consistently fails. His performance in class, in P.E., and in life are all met with obstacles and his best intentions to do better send him into a dream world filled with creatures more realistic than his own life. In contrast, his twin Phoebe is a winner at nearly everything she does. Even worse, his mother is about to become his teacher at school.
What's left to enjoy are dreams, which sometimes come with nightmares attached. And in this world, he shines.
Conductoid is a super-hero story, a saga of dreams and reality, and tells of a boy who shifts between the persona of a failure and that of Conductoid, a superhero with extraordinary abilities who saves lives and faces down challenges. What, exactly, is a 'conductoid'? It's "A being who can have another’s powers transmitted through them.’"
As Jack faces strangers, transformations, and challenges even in his super-world, he finds that the very qualities that limit him in one world come back to haunt him in the one place he feels powerful.
Not everything in Conductoid focuses on Jack's changing worlds: in between there are family encounters and relationships, field trips, and revelations about the underlying meaning of being strong.
Readers move between fantasy adventure and Jack's real world as Jack explores his position in both. Do the stories Jack creates have their roots in reality? While readers are treated to a satisfying intersection between fantasy and reality, the real questions lie in Jack's ability to move between two worlds and face the consequences of his choices in each.
This gripping saga will especially delight advanced elementary to middle grade readers who secretly dream of being heroes even as they struggle with being human.
Not a Blueprint: It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter A Journey Through Toxic Relationships achieves what few other books offer, surveying the elements of toxic relationships and people in life which defines 'toxic' actions and tells how to handle them. That it does this with acknowledgement to the hand of God and a nod to the idea that "…that God gives us strong shoes to walk those paths." Makes for a discussion particularly recommended for spiritual self-help readers.
The author knows her subject: toxic relationships at home, at work, and in life nearly destroyed her. She learned from these relationships: "My ultimate lesson in my journey has been that healthy relationships require honesty, compassion, strength, and courage. Given the right mechanisms, these traits make maneuvering through life less stormy."
Her life story unfolds in these pages, from a religious upbringing and the importance of God in her life to her job, family, and friendships. Christian guilt, shame, sin, emotional attachments and parenting are explored with insights into toxic communications, individuals, and - yes - attractions to and between toxic personalities.
Not a Blueprint thus serves a dual purpose, providing Nina Norstrom's autobiography and charting her life's course through toxicity and onto a more positive, supportive path. What's the difference between a 'blueprint' that guides one and the 'shoe print' mentioned in the title? Quite simply, this is a focus on the lasting effects ("shoe prints") which lessons learned from experience leaves on one's psyche and life. The author is quite clear about the difference and God's role in this: "…my belief is that God gives us strong shoes to walk those paths. If we are willing, we can readily learn to distinguish whether relationships are toxic or nontoxic."
Followers of her footsteps should ideally be spiritually-minded readers who will appreciate the incorporation of God's purposes into discussions of the characteristics that constitute toxic relationships and how to handle or avoid them. Readers with such a background will appreciate the consistent injections of faith into life experiences (a regular thread in the stories), and will appreciate the life lessons Norstrom shares along the way which serve to support that faith: "So, when a person comes into your life, don’t question their existence—just embrace their presence. Take it from the Holy Father: they are there for a reason, and we must embrace that moment."
Each lesson provides enlightenment, making for an appealing combination of psychological and spiritual inspection recommended for self-help and Christian readers alike.
Florian is a vampire who has hit the big time with business success (a rare position to be in for a member of a werewolf pack) until a female werewolf pads into his life to offer a special challenge with an unusual romance that tests his loyalties and even his true nature.
While Bound: The Silverton Chronicles is best described as an urban fantasy romance, it actually holds much more depth than this genre's usual read. For one thing, Florian's identity isn't based on his successful relationships between different worlds: it's a carefully-honed tightrope walk, and the lines he's so carefully built and trod all his life are about to come apart.
Secondly, Bound: The Silverton Chronicles injects a light dose of humor throughout, engaging readers through a series of fun encounters that are delightfully unexpected additions to a usually-serious genre: "I sucked in a huge breath of helium from the tank. “Why are we doing this again?” I asked in a high-pitched voice. My head spun, but it was totally worth it. Ivy punched me in the arm. “If you could be serious for a second, you’d realize it’s necessary. You can’t just stomp into another pack and demand they join yours. They need to be schmoozed.”
Carmen Fox's approach makes the most of the comic interlude device and adds dimension and fun to a read which sashays around two powerful protagonists who are each determined to get the most out of their very different lives, and who hold different alliances to their packs and their alpha leaders.
As readers absorb the social and political concerns of werewolves, vampires, and their intersections with human worlds, their different psyches and concerns are embellished with lively notes that add creative fun to the story line: "Any excuse to party, and werewolves were first in line at the kegger."
Readers should be prepared to enter a world where all forces exist in the same realm and mingle on the same plane: "The humans treat him like any other, and the kin… He’s got fae sending in donations. Trolls are doing his accounts and, on his instruction, helping out other kin with their finances. Gino even has demons working for him.” I frowned. “Demons? As in more than one? Demons don’t work for anyone, let alone in groups.”
By keeping secrets, Flo has endangered the thing he loves the most. It's time for his secrets to end, and the process of unraveling them, love, and werewolf objectives makes for a riveting, fun read that goes beyond the usual portraits of vampires and werewolves to inject a healthy degree of mystery, action, intrigue, and romance into the bigger picture of two very different souls who struggle to unite.
Readers of urban fantasy who look for both romance and rare humor in more complex stories of conflict will love Bound: The Silverton Chronicles, which takes passion and purpose and winds them into a captivating tale holding many different twists as it unravels a complicated truth.
Narrative poetry readers well know that many of the true 'classics' of this literary form have not only been written hundreds of years ago, but appear only rarely, compared to other poetic and literary styles. Indeed, the epic narrative poem has largely gone by the wayside in modern times, with the exception of Christopher Hassett's The Boundary Stone, a production some ten years in the making.
The Boundary Stone eventually grew to embrace 300 poems, then was edited back to the structure seen here: 70 poems carefully woven together to form an epic saga about a nomad wandering through the aftermath of an apocalypse.
The narrator stumbles through this smoky world with only a bone lit from its fires for illumination when he comes upon a glass-fused hole in the desert and throws himself down it in despair, presenting shades of "Ozymandias" and Danté in a vivid description that will shake readers to their poetic roots.
Each piece of this vivid collection holds multiple meanings - the flame of the narrator's heart is love, but the flame of his discovery lies in a torched bone reminiscent of humanity itself - both illuminating his path through past, present, and future options.
Descriptions of this blasted landscape are vividly wrought: "The trails through arroyos and those in the hills become/deadpaths of bone and darked plainswood, skeletal saguaros/and sparceoak,/and the peaks above and the towering basalts, where tree/stone and sun and calendar steps, scripted piers, altars of let,/stairglyphs told to temple mouths,/all in the ashfall stood spectral." Through this example (just one tiny segment of a greater whole), readers can gain a sense of just what can be done with the epic narrative poem, which cannot be similarly achieved using a different structure with roots in either other poetry or fiction.
One might anticipate, through this example, that The Boundary Stone will be a complex and challenging read; and that it is - but with the added note that it is accessible, stimulating, and vivid even to those unfamiliar with this style. The caveat here is that The Boundary Stone is not a collection to be read quickly, but a thought-provoking series of images and philosophical reflections best digested a little at a time.
In this ever-faster modern world where "high speed" and "high octane action" are revered, this requirement for reflective, slow, thoughtful reading could prove a challenge for some, but especially in an era where the epic narrative has all but vanished, The Boundary Stone stands out as a rarity in the poetry world.
But, soft! As one descends with the protagonist into the pits of Hell and hope and back up again, a transformation happens. The complex, the challenging, and the thought-provoking become compelling and visionary, while any preconceived obstacles to understanding fall away.
In the end, what is left is a saga of enrichment, discovery, and a new process of "becoming" something different in this strange new world. And what, exactly, is that?
Pursue The Boundary Stone in all its nuances to find out. Fans of the epic poetry narrative and newcomers to the form are in for a real treat, here: but be prepared to descend with the observer in the story into the depths of destruction to arrive at the heart of resurrection.
Short story collections unified by a common theme are typical creations; but what gives Prasvapa its unique flavor isn't its story structures or protagonists, but its ethereal, surrealistic air that contributes an atmosphere of surprise to its dream-like descriptions.
In short, readers expecting linear short stories will find that the strength in Prasvapa lies not in predictability nor even in plot or action, but in creating scenarios that describe and support the concept of "prasvapa" ("consciousness during sleep"). It crafts dark, unpredictable, yet compelling fantasy states that skirt the edge of real scenarios, then dip over into the impossible.
Such is the case with 'An Everyday Adventure', which opens the collection with the story of one woman's sadness about her life and blossoms from a her obsession with her sanctuary/home, where she lives distant from people and their concerns, to a cat who leads her to involve another in her life, transforming her isolated, unchanging world.
Descriptions of these worlds are succinct and precise.
Chand Svare Ghei's special talent lies in the ability to take the smallest of events, moments, and scenes and show how these can twist and convert into new worlds at the blink of an eye. It doesn't take pages of description to craft these gems (these are short productions, after all), and it doesn't take high drama to inject them with a sense of compelling insight.
'The Strife for Water', for example, tackles the simple needs of a child who is taken on a long road trip against his wishes. Ghei's ability to capture the child's inner feelings while in transit is well done, as is the sudden change of events when his mother throws him out of the car and drives away. Left to his own devices, he must satisfy his own needs - which include those most basic: hydration.
As with the other stories, this represents a microcosm of experience, not the usual plot revolving around events, actions, and logical conclusions. The compelling piece lies not in high drama but in everyday circumstances enlarged for examination; much like a small photograph, when enlarged, reveals pieces and facets not seen in its smaller counterpart.
Short story enthusiasts who appreciate approaches that deconstruct simple experiences for their greater meaning, adopting a surreal feel in the process, will love Prasvapa's compellingly unique visions.
The Mallast family's move from Germany to America in 1882 is, in one way, a classic story of immigration involving turbulent times, difficult adjustments, and new paths in life. After an introduction emphasizing that Mallast stems from his family history, Bob Prevost provides a journey through time, opening with the feel of rural central Prussia in 1879 as August Mallast tends the family fires on their tenant farm while musing on his country's progressively dangerous military ideology.
August's life has been changed by battlefield horrors in three wars, already: how can he avoid having his son conscripted into service? It's obvious: the family has to flee their homeland.
Bob Prevost takes the time to fully cover the logical progression of thought, from initial analysis of a country's political, social and military history and its impact on August and his family to their difficult decision to immigrate to a strange new country.
The frugal farming lifestyle the family's cultivated could translate to success in America, and as August follows progressively more bad news and tries to find a route that will allow the family to remain in their homeland, it becomes increasingly evident that this will not work: "Do we stay and endure the possible future treacherous wars with our sons’ lives at risk?”
This decision-making process is particularly well detailed, taking into account not just political changes, but the psyches of young men which are often geared to the glories of conflict and battle: "He knew his sons would initially look forward to a perceived glorious adventure with the army, especially since many of their young friends would be part of the big build-up as well."
August's task lies in using his more mature knowledge of war's horrible effects to move his family to a safe place where the drama lies not in battle, but in new opportunities for growth. As they make their choices and moves, these themes rise to the forefront of a plan that brings the family to a new home and some unforeseen challenges.
As the family experiences newfound prospects and change with their new American farm and business ventures, so does its history evolve from one of Old Country hardships to New World opportunity.
The European setting, motivations for major changes, family connections and support systems, and Mallast's family history (the facts are reviewed in a concluding section to the novel) all make for a lovely historical piece that takes a family history and transforms it into a microcosm of immigrant experience.
Any fiction reader who appreciates historical facts and stories of early European immigrant experience will relish this sweeping saga of a family that ultimately recreates their lives and makes decisions that have lasting, positive ramifications for future generations.
Books for middle school readers about the middle ages are too often dry affairs that favor historical fact over captivating magical scenes. This is far from the case in Stumbling on a Tale, the latest addition to the 'Time to Time Kids' series, which decorates its facts with the compellingly colorful embellishment of fiction.
A lively introduction firmly cements the adventure with a dose of historical explanation that creates a solid backdrop of world history, setting the stage for the story to follow.
Enter twelve-year-old Henry Hawkins and his older stepsister Peri, who are still developing their newfound relationship as siblings. Henry's stepsister isn't the shy, antisocial girl he'd envisioned a fifteen-year-old to be: she's precocious, curious, and always ready to step into trouble - and thus, she's at the top of his list of things to worry about.
They're again playing with a curious book that holds strange powers; this time trying to find out more about its author and publisher. When Max repeats the sequence of events that led to their last time-traveling history adventure, disaster once again strikes. This time they're not in 1900s New York City, but are in a forest in an era that feels much older.
The key to returning home lies in finding an antique. The only problem is that Max, who has brought them all here, has no idea what the antique is - and so they are looking for a needle in a haystack.
Knights, dragons, and lost siblings - oh my! Winding through the historical encounters are the real, contemporary concerns of kids who have had to make big adjustments to modern times.
It may take a return home to make these Middle Ages events make sense - and even then, life becomes more complicated when time travel adventures are added to the mix.
Quizzes, puzzles, riddles and games, activities, and even recipes at the conclusion of the story add value to this tale, which ends in a manner that paves the way for more time-traveling history explorations; but its real meat and protein lie in chapters packed with a vivid blend of adventure quest and historical insights.
As the siblings come to realize some of the meanings of the antiques, the book, and their encounters, they also come to absorb wisdom and more mature approaches to problem-solving and begin to understand how myths, quests, and history intersect.
A rollicking good adventure story spiced with real insights on past and present make Stumbling on a Tale a lively read highly recommended for any middle-grade fan of time travel action stories.
The Girl Who Could Read Hearts opens with six-year-old Kate, who huddles in the safe embrace of a walnut tree in Berkeley, California. At this point, Kate is clueless about her hidden intuitive powers and the presence of an angel on her birthday cake, who is charged with overseeing the evolution of a soul eons old, belaying her latest six-year-old incarnation's physical age.
While the story line focuses on the evolution of Kate's powers and her growing relationship with this angel overseer, it's also a story of parents and others who view her visions as a form of mental illness and who try to help her accordingly.
The Girl Who Could Read Hearts may be directed to young adult audiences, but the first thing to know about Kate and her world is that her ability to 'read' others and effect changes that might not be entirely desirable makes for a compelling tale that many an adult will also want to read.
As events unfold and Kate finds herself caught in a web of self-discovery and self-induced interventions, facing the consequences of her choices as her abilities grow, so readers are drawn into a plot that pairs a story of growing faith and evolving talents with a myriad of social, political and personal conflicts along the way.
Sherry Maysonave's ability to juxtapose inner and outer worlds for a maximum sense of impact and her realistic portrayal of a youngster's world make for satisfying blends of extraordinary and ordinary experiences: "See, you’re not such a smarty pants after all. Like you can’t even win a game for four-year-olds,” Marilla Marzy taunted."
Medical procedures and murder, teen angst and police involvements, eating disorders and intrigue, and interactions with the afterlife push The Girl Who Could Read Hearts into unexpected directions. Readers won't expect to find these themes wound into an overall saga of a girl's awakening abilities; but they are an intrinsic piece of a plot that combines spiritual reflections with social issues, and they make for a complex web of events that succeed in creating a moving, memorable story.
The Girl Who Could Read Hearts is a highly recommended, evocative read for young adult to adult audiences who are interested in stories of evolution, spiritual guidance, and ultimately, hope.