Stephanie S. - Reviews

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Abracadaver: A Father Dowling Mystery
Abracadaver: A Father Dowling Mystery
Author: Ralph McInerny
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/22/2014


I wanted something light and non-taxing when I picked up this book. This is the first Father Dowling mystery for me, and unfortunately I'm not exactly dazzled. I should have been more clear in my thinking: light and non-taxing, but fun and interesting, too!

My main criticism stems from the fact that Father Dowling is almost a minor character; much (if not most) of the sleuthing is done by a police chief and some other town players. I guess I wanted a better introduction to the Title Character. The mystery was okay, but not such a page-turner I became voracious, which is my idea of a good book. I set this one aside more than once during the days I read it. All-in-all, there just wasn't much pizzazz. I think I will read another in the series to compare, for fairness sake. Surely such a popular series has something to enthrall its audience, and maybe I just missed it here. **1/2 stars and a big "meh" at this time.


Annette Sierra Summer
Annette Sierra Summer
Author: Doris Schroeder
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 5/20/2008


Old-fashioned wholesome mystery for young girls or anyone who fondly remembers Annette Funicello. A flashback for sure!


Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Author: Judy Blume
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 155
Review Date: 5/28/2009
Helpful Score: 1


I read this book only recently (years and years since being a teenager!), because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I'd never read anything by Judy Blume before. Though the book (which is from the early '70s) is quite dated in the year 2009(kids today probably will not even understand what a sanitary nakpkin belt is...shudder!!), it does tackle some "heavy" topics that probably still confuse and baffle young girls nowadays---like getting their first periods, and deciding what role religion will play in their lives. So it's not all boys and crushes and silly stuff. I'm glad I read it after all these years, and will pass it along to some young ladies I know when the time comes if it isn't requested here at PBS.


The Art of Pressed Flowers
The Art of Pressed Flowers
Author: Sylvia Pepper
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 4/19/2009
Helpful Score: 1


At one time, I had three flower presses going at all times!! This book was very helpful because it contains lots of color photographs and many design ideas. If you or your child presses flowers and leaves, and you just need some guidance in how to use them in art projects, you will love this book!


Arthur, For the Very First Time
Arthur, For the Very First Time
Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/3/2011


This was a sweet and gentle book that I think young girls especially will take to. Arthur is 10 and introverted, his parents fight a lot and there is a new sibling on the way that Arthur is not exactly thrilled about. He listens and observes and writes everything in his faithful journal. Then he is sent to spend the summer with his kooky aunt and uncle on their farm. He meets Moira, a young neighbor, who's adventurous and reckless and who challenges Arthur "do" not just "write about it". And in time he does. Some rather weighty issues are tackled here, but with a very gentle hand. I really enjoyed this endearing and thoroughly believable book.


B for Buster
B for Buster
Author: Iain Lawrence
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/30/2010
Helpful Score: 2


"B for Buster" really made me rethink--and appreciate--what YA is all about. There are very mature subjects covered in this book: war, death, fear, loyalty, friendship, history, prejudice, and so much more--all told from the perspective of a 16 year old boy who runs away from an abusive home and joins the airforce in WWII. He envisions super heroes and returning home to victory parades--only to find himself mortally terrified after his very first mission and desperate to get out and go home thereafter. Until he can, he is determined to stay loyal to his crewmates and hide the fact that he is underaged, all while again and again mustering up the courage to board his bomber, the B for Buster, and fly missions. Iain Lawrence again delivers a thoroughly believable young hero emeshed in a moving and thrilling story. Very recommended reading!


The Beardstown Ladies' Common-Sense Investment Guide: How We Beat the Stock Market-And How You Can, Too
Review Date: 6/3/2009


Good book, with good advice for beginners who are a tad nervous about investing mostly because they don't know much about the stock market. Also an excellent starting point if you are thinking of joining (or creating) an investment club.


Review Date: 6/3/2009


Full of common sense tips about how to create your own nest egg and secure your own finanacial future. I enjoyed the no-nonsense approach, and the mini-biographies of each member. They really are just plain folk who made good sound choices and have great advice to share.


Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction
Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction
Author: David Sheff
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 157
Review Date: 3/29/2013
Helpful Score: 3


I could not put this book down. David Sheff's description of his son's descent into drugs was gut-wrenching. His sadness, horror, guilt, fear and struggle to hold onto hope, all shine through on every page. The absolutely beautiful writing made it easy, even joyous for me to read, even while it broke my heart. Highly recommended.

****** Six stars out of five, and three thrumbs up.


The Best of Cooking with 3 Ingredients
The Best of Cooking with 3 Ingredients
Author: Ruthie Wornall
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 3/5/2015


This book gave me my favorite cookie recipe of all time (using any number of ingredients!), which I still use to this day: Miracle Peanut Butter Cookies. 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg. That's it!! Combine all. Roll into balls. Flatten and crisscross with a fork dipped in sugar. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Delish!! Simple!! No other crap! This recipe alone makes me glad I have this book!

That said, this book relies heavily on using pre-packaged foods, making it simple to only need 3 ingredients that way. As I mature I am trying to cook and bake more from scratch. However, this book is loaded with extremely simple and fast recipes, and I believe most cooks will be happy to have it in their cookbook library.

*** Three stars!


Black Beauty Grows Up (Anna Sewell's the Adventures of Black Beauty, 1)
Review Date: 5/27/2009


A wonderful beginner book for a young reader. Told first person by Black Beauty, this all-too-brief book tells his story from pony through his first few homes and masters. Young girls especially will fall in love with Black Beauty....and grow up wanting a horse of their own!!


BORN ON 4TH JULY
BORN ON 4TH JULY
Author: Ron kovic
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 2/17/2010
Helpful Score: 1


I have avoided this book for many years, mostly becaue Tom Cruise starred in the movie, and I am not a Cruise fan. I also mistakenly believed it would be a lengthy discourse on the evils of America. However, the book surprised me completely and touched me deeply and I wish I'd picked it up sooner!

Kovic was indeed born on the 4th of July, and grew up a typical kid of the 50s and 60s, emeshed in patriotism, very idealistic, believing in good guys and all-American heroes. This book begins with his injury--he was paralyzed from the chest down on his second tour in Vietnam--and chronicles the horrors of his hospitalizations (honestly, this book is an indictment of the often inhumane and deplorable treatment he received and witnessed--and should be required reading for all hospitals staffs, aides, doctors and nurses), plus his utter heartbreak over his lost body. It wasn't until years afterward, as he struggled with the additional burdens of several incidents on the battlefield that haunted him, that he came to believe the war was morally wrong.

His writing style is clear, simple, descriptive, thoroughly moving and very very readable. I highly recommend this book.

***** Five stars!


The Boy in the Burning House
The Boy in the Burning House
Author: Tim Wynne-Jones, Tim Wynne-Jones
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 1/6/2010


I am currently on a YA kick---and this book is a big reason why. The hero, Jim Hawkins is a totally believable 14 year old boy. He's just emerging from a deep grief following his father's apparent suicide. He valiantly steps up to fill his father's shoes to help his mother keep their farm going.

Then one day he meets a wild, mysterious young girl named Ruth Rose, who seems to delight in taunting him....until she reveals that Jim's father may not have taken his own life. Perhaps it was murder? Reluctantly, Jim forces himself out of his shell, befriends Ruth Rose despite being afraid of her, and begins to follow some clues.

This book tackles grief, depression, religion and a host of other real issues all while telling an engrossing and enjoyable story. I liked especially that Jim and his mother were close, on the same side, worried about each other, but that they argued and bugged each other just the same. Very believable. The writing style is not frivolous, but perfectly descriptive. I highly recommend this book!!

****1/2 Four and a half stars!


Boy O'Boy (Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award (Awards))
Review Date: 3/15/2011


This was a wonderful book. At the onset, it's just about a young boy in a rather unhappy house: his beloved grandmother just died, his parents argue all the time, and his twin brother is disabled. Then, it reveals a subtle underlayer--of child molestaton, by trusted adults in very normal settings. For me, this was quite a page-turner. A short book, but long on message and depth. Beautifuly and very clearly written. Recommended!!


Brady Bunch Book
Brady Bunch Book
Author: Andy Edelstein, Frank Lovece
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 3/9/2015


As a self-proclaimed BIG Brady Bunch fan, I must say this book fell short for me. I prefer books that look back at the Brady Bunch with fondness; the writers of this book instead seemed derisive and jeering to me. I guess they are fans of the show (why else write a book about it?). But their commentary was snarky instead of humorous, and the overview of this world was not very complimentary. The BB is all about nostalgia and kitsch these days, not so much about making fun of the mores, times and fashions, and in this regard the writers failed to deliver.

In my opinion, Barry Williams' "I Was A Teenage Greg" was a much better look-back. Plus his was a first-hand account, and contained a full episode guide, too, making this tome virtually unnecessary.

Lastly, this book was published in 1990--far too long ago for any satisfying (or even relevant, at this point) "updates" on the cast. Of course, a book can't help when it was published. But, it does affect the satisfaction of the reader (THIS reader anyway). So, all in all, I didn't love this book.

**1/2 Two and a half stars only.


Brian's Return (Brian's Saga, Bk 4)
Brian's Return (Brian's Saga, Bk 4)
Author: Gary Paulsen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 3/21/2015


I like Gary Paulsen's writing style. His word choices are simple and non-taxing, but perfectly describe scenes and and feelings without any unnecessary gush. For instance:

While still back home and before deciding to return to the wild, Brian is accosted by a bully: "Brian came off the ground like a spring. His eyes, his mind, searched for a weapon, something, anything that he could use but there was nothing; pavement, a brick wall, a glass door. Nothing loose. It didn't matter. The thought did not slow his movement, and he had himself. He had his hands." Brian's resiliency--and his core being--shine through, yet the sentences are simple and unfussy. I appreciate that.

Even better, this story of his decision to return to the woods, possibly for good, is believable and interesting from start to finish.

***1/2 Three and a half stars!


Brian's Winter (Brian's Saga, Bk 3)
Brian's Winter (Brian's Saga, Bk 3)
Author: Gary Paulsen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 4/17/2016


Excellent book---and an excellent premise, for those readers who have followed the "Hatchet" series. The author received comments that the earlier stories ended "too soon", because Brian Robeson was rescued from the Canadian wilderness (following a plane crash) "before it became really hard going." This book surmises Brian's experiences had he not been rescued---when the brutal -50 degree winter really set in.

Brian is resilient, logical, inventive. He is also respectful and often afraid of the woods he is trapped in. Paulson's writing has depth and reverence. The pages turn easily because each of Brian's experiences leads believably to the next scenario. Also, though written for young adults, this whole series does not pander to them. The hardships and methods that Brian must use to survive--including killing animals in order to eat and live--are faced squarely and not shied away from.

**** Four stars!


By the Pricking of My Thumbs
By the Pricking of My Thumbs
Author: Agatha Christie
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/27/2014


This is the first Agatha Christie mystery I've read, and sadly I am underwhelmed. The characters talked too much, much too much, and repeated what happened chattily too many times--almost as if the author was trying to keep track of things herself. The mystery was thin, the revelation of new clues often preposterous. I am dismayed I didn't love this book and then want to devour others by Ms. Christie. Sadly, that will not be.

** Two stars, barely.


The Chocolate War
The Chocolate War
Author: Robert Cormier
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 2/28/2009


I found this book surprisingly violent and graphic in places. And I thought the themes of being bullied and singled out are as timeless and relevant today as ever. However, at the same time, I found the premise of a battle of wills over selling chocolate for their school, a bit outdated. I'd hoped that The Chocolate War would capture me as much as The Outsiders did, but it just didn't measure up quite so high. But it's a worthy read.


The Christmas Box
The Christmas Box
Author: Richard Paul Evans
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 98
Review Date: 6/17/2009


What a heart-warming and gentle little book! Full of Christmas spirit, of course, but with a sweet lesson about cherishing one's family that will brighten any day of the year. I really enjoyed it.


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