Book Review

Dandelion Wine

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I’m ALIVE. Thinking about it, noticing it, is new. You do things and don’t watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you’re doing and it’s the first time, really.”*

Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy living in Green Town, Illinois, is glad to be alive. It’s summer, 1928, after all, and there are forests to explore, ice creams to eat, and all sorts of adventures to be had. There’s a human time machine, a witch trapped in wax, a junkman who can save lives, two soulmates born in the wrong time, a nighttime murderer, and a man determined to create happiness with a machine. There’s a lot to accomplish in a summer in Green Town, and Douglas Spaulding is planning to live life to the fullest.

Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer, and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.”*

I would highly recommend Dandelion Wine written by Ray Bradbury and published by Doubleday in 1957 for ages 15+. It is a beautiful, half-memoir half-fantasy novel with haunting prose, real themes, and beautiful, life-like characters. There are a few more mature worldview themes to watch out for, but otherwise this is a wholesome read. 5 out of 5 stars.

No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now.”*

*all excerpts taken from Dandelion Wine, written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1957 by Doubleday.

Irena’s Children

Irena’s Children: A True Story of Courage, written by Tilar J. Mazzeo and published in 2016 by Gallery Books, Trifecta Creative Holdings, Inc, is a harrowing story of secrecy, sacrifice, bravery, and love in a time of war. This book falls under the biography and WWII genres.

Irena’s Children tells the tale of a heroic woman named Irena Sendler who organized the rescue of over 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the German occupation. Working closely with her old college friends, Irena smuggled babies in handbags and older children through the sewage systems, changed their names and identities, then found them new homes either in orphanages or Polish foster families willing to risk their lives and those of their family to help save these Jewish children. Read as Irena and her band of fighters save children, smuggle food and medicine into the Ghetto, stage resistance battles, and narrowly escape arrest. Sometimes, however; their operations didn’t always go as planned, and more than one brave soul lost their life for freedom.

I would highly recommend this book for ages 16+. It’s a well-written, fascinating biography written more like a novel than a history book. There is quite a bit of violence to be on guard for, as well as a few mature themes and some mild profanity. I highly enjoyed reading this book-it’s easily one of my favorite WWII biographies, with accurate representation of the facts and respect for both sides of the struggle. All in all, a masterful book about the German occupation of Warsaw and the horrors, and bravery, that resulted from it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Till We Have Faces

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Till We Have Faces, written by C.S. Lewis and published in 1956, is a thought-provoking and convicting novel ended with a powerful unexpected thrust. Lewis reworks the timeless myth of Cupid and Psyche into a tale of two sisters, one ugly and embittered and the other beautiful and kind. Follow the elder sister Orual as she battles with pride, toxic love, and anger against the gods who ruined her life and stole her sister.
I would highly recommend this book for ages 16+. There are some mature elements younger readers might not fully understand, as well as some deep themes to pick apart and think upon. A masterful tale of the struggle between true and toxic love, ranked among some of C.S. Lewis’s finest works. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Boy Who Steals Houses

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Featuring broken boys, waffles, stolen keys, bruised knuckles, family, lockpicks, loneliness, and caramel-The Boy Who Steals Houses, written by C.G. Drews and published in Great Britain in 2019 by The Watts Publishing Group, is a truly inspiring, deeply moving story of a lonely boy named Sammy Lou, his brother Avery, and a girl named Moxie who’s made of sharp corners and a lemonade smile. This is a story of brokenness and belonging, of bruised knuckles and pure love, of stolen houses and families who steal your heart.

If lost, please return to the De Laineys.*

I would recommend The Boy Who Steals Houses for ages 17+-there is some mature language and a few thematic elements to be wary of, including child abuse and other violence. This book is one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read, and remains among the few that have made me cry while reading. The Boy Who Steals Houses falls under the contemporary\inspirational genre and has excellent family themes, beautiful but unusual descriptions, and memorable characters. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

*Excerpt taken from The Boy Who Steals Houses, written by C.G. Drews and published in Great Britain in 2019 by The Watts Publishing Group.

Evidence Not Seen

Featuring answered prayer, bombs, jungle prisons, midnight intrigues, and bananas; Evidence Not Seen tells the first-hand account of missionary Darlene Deibler Rose, the first American woman to enter the Baliem Valley of New Guinea. She trekked the jungles of New Guinea with her husband, was captured by the Japanese during WWII, incarcerated in a horrible prison camp, and forced to sign a false confession while facing execution at the hand of her merciless guards. This book tells of unshakable faith and wonderous miracles that will inspire the reader. Written by Mrs. Rose herself and published in 1988 by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; this book falls under the autobiography, WWII, and Christian biography genres.
I would highly recommend Evidence Not Seen for ages 15+. There is some violence and minor mature themes that might be unsuited for younger readers. All in all, an inspiring read with Godly themes and historical benefits. 4 out of 5 stars.

Ghosts in the Fog

For years, the American government denied it ever happened. Those who experienced it didn’t wish to relive the horrific memories. And so the general public never knew that the Japanese invaded Alaska on June 7th, 1942, or that the native Alaskan people were forced from their homes by their own government, or that one of the deadliest hand-to-hand battles between the U.S.A. and Japan consisted of a strange chain of events that were hidden for years-and some of which are still unexplained. Ghosts in the Fog: The Untold Story of Alaska’s WWII Invasion written by Samantha Seiple and published in 2011 by Scholastic Press tells this story-the one they didn’t want us to know.
I would highly recommend this book for ages 12+. Well written, informative, and easy to read; this book lays out the facts of this battle with clarity and truthful rendering of the facts as they happened. There is no excessive gore or mature language to watch out for. All in all, 4 out of 5 stars.

Dust and Shadow

The year is 1887, and Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous detective, is hot on the trail of a notorious killer who has taken the bloody epithet Jack the Ripper. Mr. Holmes is determined to run down this fiend and take him to justice, but when the great detective is laid low from a dreadful injury, he must entrust this case to the hands of his faithful friend Dr. John Watson and their new associate Miss Mary Ann Monk. To make matters worse, the press begins an investigation of their own, with Sherlock Holmes as the main suspect and the object of their suspicions. Beset on every side with distrust, scorn, and outright malice; the three friends must hasten to stop the killer known as “the Knife” before he strikes again, at all costs, for the good of all London.
I recommend Dust and Shadow, written by Lyndsay Faye and published in 2009 by Simon & Schuster, for ages 17+. This book falls under the mystery and thriller genres, and is an engaging and suspenseful read, true to the voice of the original Holmes stories. There is some mild language and mature elements to watch out for, as well as gruesome details that could disturb younger readers. All in all, a well-written story with a thrilling plot, Victorian drama, and a dash of menace. 4 out of 5 stars.

The Whole Art of Detection

My friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes…*

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, written by Lyndsay Faye and published in 2017 by Grove Atlantic, is a marvelous addition to the Sherlock Holmes cannon. Consisting of fifteen short stories, including two selections from Mr. Holmes’ diary, a garden tea gone murderous, and a strange case of unsolved madness-these tales are sure to delight any Sherlockian. This book would fall under the historical fiction, crime, mystery, and adventure genres.
I would highly recommend this book for ages 13+. Written true to the original stories, The Whole Art of Detection is a remarkable read with only some violence and one or two uses of mature language to watch out for. A well-written book with engaging action and faithful renderings of the famous detective and his faithful counterpart. 4 out of 5 stars.

…has returned to Baker Street. *

*All excerpts taken from The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, written by Lyndsay Faye and published in 2017 by Grove Atlantic.

Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye

How shall I begin? How might I convey to you, the reader, of a most troublesome circumstance which befell me, whereby I might kindle in you an understanding of the dark misgivings which linger in my nightmares? *

Sherlock Holmes and his faithful biographer, Dr. John Watson have embarked on a new set of fantastical adventures. A mysterious client has sent them a number of questions involving unsolved Biblical mysteries, and the great Detective is determined to solve every one. The only catch-the mysteries happened over 1,000 years ago. And in order to solve them, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson have to trust a machine that was designed by the nefarious Professor Moriarty to take them into the past to solve these mysteries. Will they be able to solve all the mysteries before the police get wind of their potentially illegal activities? And who exactly is this mysterious client that has sent them on this dangerous mission? Find out in Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye by Len Bailey, published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. This book falls under the Christian fiction and mystery genres.
I highly recommend this book for ages 15+. There are some mildly thematic elements to watch out for, as well as some violence. This book is a medium reading difficulty, and the dialogue and descriptions are excellent. The book is a little slow at times, but the characters are well written and the mysteries are intriguing. All in all, 3 out of 5 stars.

*Excerpt taken from Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye, written by Len Bailey and published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson.

A Monster Calls

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
Conor was awake when it came. *

13-year-old Conor O’Malley is a hurting boy. His mother is sick, really sick. At school, he’s either invisible or a bully target. He doesn’t speak to his best friend anymore. And he’s having nightmares. Terrible nightmares. Nightmares that he will never, ever tell anyone else about.
And then there’s the monster.

I have come to get you, Conor O’Malley, the monster said…
A monster, Conor thought. A real, honest-to-goodness monster. In real, waking life. Not in a dream, but here, at his window.
Come to get him.
But Conor didn’t run. *

This monster is not like the others. It’s ancient. It’s fierce. And it will learn the truth from Conor. Even if the lost boy is determined that no one ever will learn the secret.
The monster will keep on calling.

In fact, he found he wasn’t even frightened.
All he could feel, all he had felt since the monster revealed itself, was a growing disappointment.
Because this wasn’t the monster he was expected. *

I would recommend this book for ages 16+. There are some mature thematic elements, as well as some mild language and dark themes. A Monster Calls-written by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, illustrated by Jim Kay, and published in America, 2006 by Hilary Mantel-is a phenomenal, deeply moving tale of loss and healing. This compelling novel would fall under the dark fantasy, inspiring, and contemporary genres. 4 out of 5 stars.

“So come and get me then,” he said. *

*All excerpts taken from A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness and published in America, 2006 by Hilary Mantel.