Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “authors”

Reading Round Up: October


The ability of freely reading after a long day of teaching and grading becomes an increasing struggle. Books are still a go to for defragmenting my brain, yet I find myself falling asleep way too soon as I relax while reading. It’s taking sooo much longer to get through my TBR stack. Sundays are becoming my reading days. And napping days. I do a bit of both.

Here are October’s highlights:

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Realistic slice of how one neighborhood copes with diversity.

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Overall, a thoughtful contemplation about what to do when the realization that life might be shorter than initially expected. While the foreign names and places were sometimes difficult to keep straight, the challenge of absorbing deep truths proved worthwhile.

NOTE: As much as I appreciate Jeremy Irons, I found the film adaptation so different from the novel I had to resort to my “the movie is the movie and the book is the book” philosophy. The book, of course, is so much better.

  • Reading Goal Update

Though my usual reading time is cut almost in half with my attention diverted to school again, I’ve managed to read past my yearly Goodreads goal of 101 books, and I am now at 121 titles for the year. Should I reach for 135 like I have previously? Ooh, that might be a challenge to consider…

Ta dah and Surprise


Well, you might be wondering where Cricket Muse has hopped off to and who is this “Pam Webb.”

No worries.

Cricket Muse is still here, yet I have fulfilled the promise I made to myself that once I became published–not as magazine byline, not as part of an anthology, but as an author through a mainstream publisher–I would upgrade to a domain with my true name.

Here I am: Pam Webb

The published title in question will be available April 2020, which seems a long way off, yet my publisher is revving up the publicity wagon and I best jump on.

This publicity thing is tough on a gregarious hermit like myself–hence hiding out as Cricket Muse for the past seven or so years. A promise is a promise.

So–here is the newly designed blog, and I hope you will keep visiting. Check out my About page and Published Writing to get a bit more about Pam Webb. As for Cricket Muse? She’s still there. It’s difficult to keep a cricket from being a-mused with life.

The book. Right, the book. How the book came to be is a blog post coming up. I do want to thank Andrew DeYoung of Beaming Books who believed in the story, and Wendy Leach who provided the lighthearted illustrations. It’s been a wonderful experience. Thanks to all who have helped get this idea out of the drawer where it had been hiding and up on the shelves.

Image result for someday we will pam webb

You can check out the title in a couple of different places:

Amazon

Goodreads

As for the blog format? Cricket is nudging me to keep up my regular posts of Why We Say, Word Nerds, Bard Bits, and other miscellaneous thoughts about life. Those crickets-tccch-such chirpy little things…

Author Spotlight: James Herriot


Eons ago I became smitten with the James Herriot series All Creatures Great and Small—both the books and BBC show.

The gentle humor, the insights into human nature, the animal stories, the quaint English countryside with all of its unique characters, the appreciation for life even in the hard circumstances of being a country became a tonic for this reader.

james herriot life work

It wasn’t until recently, while researching for a writing project, I came across James Herriot once again. This time I paid more attention to the writer. I came away more impressed than ever, and developed more respect for James Herriot or rather James Alfred Wight, the man behind the stories. Here are some facts I learned while reintroducing myself to his works:

  • He choose to write under the pseudonym of James Herriot due to strict veterinary association ethics of not writing under one’s own name to avoid self-promotion. He took the name from a professional football (soccer) player who played for Wight’s favorite Sunderland team.
  • Born in England, his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland when he was a baby. He spent 23 years in Glasgow and naturally developed an accent causing people to think he was Scottish.
  • He decided to become a vet due to the combination of loving animals, reading an article about choosing a vocation, and listening to a guest lecturer from the Glasgow Veterinary School.
  • Wight was an avid reader, one dedicated to classics and authors such as Sir Conan Doyle, H.G.Wells, H. Rider Haggard, O’Henry, P.G. Wodehouse, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare. These literary influences are evident in Wight’s writing with his ability to inject humor in unexpected moments with irony, imagery, and a turn of a phrase. His ear for natural dialogue added greatly to the rhythm of the story.
  • Being born in 1916 put Wight at a disadvantage since it placed him in the middle of an economic depression by the time he graduated from vet school, making it difficult to find a position.
  • He first worked with a veterinarian in Sunderland (where he was born) but due to the vet’s contract with the dog racing track having ended, Wight had to find another placement. This led him to Yorkshire where he would work with Donald Sinclair (Siegfried rom the books) for nearly fifty years.
  • After being hired by Sinclair, Wight had to run the practice single-handedly because Sinclair had joined the Royal Air Force.
  • Wight had tried publishing other stories before writing his country vet tales, yet only met rejections. He didn’t begin publishing his memoirs, his life as a country vet, until he was 50 years old and continued writing through his early 70s.
  • His initial book, If Only They Could Talk, was serialized in the newspaper, and a favorable literary review launched further reader interest. Soon after, his books sold constantly and his career as a writer began and to this day people are still fans of his writing.
  • Wight claimed 90% of his stories were true, having had the need to change names and situations, yet some dissenters, particularly Graham Lord, a biographer, say it’s closer to 50%, making his memoirs more fiction than fact. However, Wight’s son, Jim, maintains in his biography of his dad that 90% true is accurate [Does it really matter? The stories are marvelous—so what if there are embellishments?]
  • Wight continued his veterinary practice even while becoming a successful author, as he truly enjoyed being a country vet.
  • His books were bestsellers, sometimes remaining on the New York Times list for over six months.
  • To this day Wight’s books have sold over 60 million copies.
  • Thousands of fans, mostly Americans, would trek to Yorkshire to meet Wight and he would personally sign books and meet with people and he took the time to answer the cascade of letters sent to him. Today there is a World of James Herriot museum located at his original practice where devotees can learn more about the author.
  • James Alfred “Alf” Wight was always surprised at his success as a writer; he remained humble and in awe of his publishing achievement throughout his life. Though he became a millionaire author, he nevertheless lived a simple life, enjoying his marriage to Joan “Helen” for over 50 years and had a loving relationship with his two children, Jim and Rosie, who both became doctors (Jim carried on in his father’s practice, and Wight talked his daughter out of becoming a vet due to the strenuous work, so she became a general practitioner).
  • He received the OBE for his contribution to veterinary science, along with many other significant awards.

His original books published in Britain had titles such as It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, The Flying Vet, and were short volumes, which were combined to create longer volumes and retitled from lines of a famous British hymn: All Creatures Great and Small. Although I have read most, if not all of Herriot’s books, including his biographies, I do have my favorites:

Picture Books

Oscar, Cat-About-Town

Moses, the Kitten

Collections

James Herriot’s Cat Stories

Image result for james herriot cat photographs

The Best of James Herriot, Favorite Memories of a Country Vet

Biographies

The Real James Herriot, Memoir of My Father by James Wight

Television and Film

The entire BBC series with Robert Hardy

Image result for all creatures great and small bbc

The first film with Anthony Hopkins

Young James Herriot

Reader Round Up: June


June was a strange month. At one point I found myself trying to survive 112 degree temps in Arizona. It wasn’t a planned visit. DO NOT plan a visit in Arizona in June. Or July. Or even August. Some consideration can be given to September on up to May.

Then there was a conference I had to attend barely having time to refresh my suitcase contents and reviving from heat prostration.

I will never take the greenery, nor the rain, of my region for granted–ever, ever again.

I returned from one conference long enough to appreciate my bed for a few nights, read a bit in the hammock, and repack the suitcase. Back-to-back conferences sounded like a good idea back in April when I scheduled them. You know, get business out of the way to leave the rest of summer to enjoy…

Unscheduled life events can throw neatly planned calendars right out the window.

I haven’t really started Summer Break (yes, it’s capped–because it is important) but I have snuck in a few choice books during my heat endurance trial. The site library had air conditioning. Fortunately.

Cormorant’s Isle by Allan McKinnon

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A freebie from the library rack and I’m glad I grabbed it. Publish date is 1952 and has that old feel of a Mary Stewart mystery with a bit of Ian Fleming. I’m determined to find more of McKinnon’s books.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The librarian within thrilled to the idea of reading about the great Los Angeles Library fire–not because I harbor pyro tendencies, because such a huge event had gone unnoticed–a library fire that consumed hundreds of thousands of books and I hadn’t heard about it?

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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Victoria Jones is 18 and is graduating out of the foster care system into an independence she is not prepared to handle. Almost feral in how she survives her emancipation, Victoria nevertheless has an innate, refined talent for flowers and finds herself immersed in the world of San Francisco’s flower world.

Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons

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Reminiscent of Twain, Culler, and even Lee in its portrayal of a family full of memorable characters, Kaye Gibbons provides a story that reads like an autobiographical tribute to matriarchal families of yesteryear.

A Stranger’s House by Brett Lott

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Having read Jewel, I was prepared for the transparent rawness of Brett Lott’s writing style, that intensity in which he peels back the veneer of coping with life and shows the hurt, anguish, and truths of what it means to live with our humanity. The story still caught me sideways in the way Lott reveals pain and sorrow.

The Pool of Fire by John Christopher

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The third installment of The Tripod series provides both action and a thoughtful commentary on world peace.

The Seven-Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

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Is it possible to reach Sherlock saturation? Apparently not. There are many, maybe too many, adaptations, reinventions, and suppositions of Sherlock, both in print and film out and about. Some better than others. Yet, in 1974, Nicholas Meyer provided a clever pastiche called the Seven-Percent Solution and readers, even Sherlockians, can appreciate the effort.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

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Tiffany. This is the place where dreams abound in its grand showcases and is multi-story wonderment of glitter and gold. What would it be like to work there? Marjorie Hart describes her summer working at Tiffany with her best friend Marty. The two girls, fresh from Iowa, find plenty of first time adventures as they explore New York as young adults, barely out of high school.

Told in first person in a light pleasing style, Hart provides a lively memoir of her “best summer ever.”

Had the potential for a higher review rating, yet vague details and a rushed ending dampened the otherwise enjoyable recollection.

June was an odd month filled with more than a few stress-filled moments; however, books, those paged balms, helped me cope.

How was your June?

Any memorable reads to share?

Reader Round Up: March


I can tell how stressed I am by how many books I read in a month. I used to count by dark chocolate Dove bars. Books are less invasive on the waistline.

I can also measure my stress level by the types of books I read.

Picture books:

Where Are You, Little Zack? by Judith Ross Enderle ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The StinkyCheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Juvie books:

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The White Mountains by John Christopher ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

YA books:

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Inspirational books:

Better Together: Life Is Best With a Friend Like You by Warren Photographic ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Be Safe, Love Mom by Elaine Lowry Brye ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

New-to-me-authors:

The Librarian by Sally Vickers ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vickers ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Historical Romance:

Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin

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Mystery:

Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A baker’s dozen of books. All over the place. I’m unable to comment on March. I do appreciate how many five star reads I encountered. Nothing like a run of really satisfying books to get one through the murkiness of March. Maybe the Ides have it–March is not a month to mess with.

Good thing it’s April.

Shakespeare Celeb: Shakesperience


What can you say about a work of literature that carries over into several centuries and still has meaning? For one thing, you can say “Shakespeare.” His writing certainly fascinates, attracts, and illuminates the times. Fashion may change, but human emotions definitely haven’t evolved much in 400 years. Even my sophomores are totally getting the value of studying Julius Caesar this year.

Recently our school hosted Shakesperience, which is a NEA sponsored acting troupe that travels throughout schools in our fair state, presenting, yes, you guessed it, Shakespeare. They shake down a three-four hour play into one hour based on a theme. This year they showed As You Like It set in the eighties. Gotta love eighties fashion (or lack of it). The actors have lots of energy and speak Bard. I always wonder if students “get it”–they must, because they laugh in the right places.

My favorite part of arranging Shakesperience is the afterwards. Students trundle out of the auditorium with smiles, sharing happy moments from the play. One of the best shares so far was on the fly.

Grabbing a quick snack at the cafeteria wagon after the performance I felt a tap on the shoulder. I turned and one of the students who had pleaded with me to allow him to attend the performance (even though arrangements should have been made previously and not a half hour before the show starts) stared at me for a couple of seconds. I prompted him, “So, you liked the play?” He widened his eyes and placed his fingertips to his forehead and “exploded” them off his face, complete with appropriate sounds. I understood that he meant the performance blew his mind.

Old play, new way, same words, and they get it. Yup, can’t wait for next year.

Image result for as you like it

Author Spotlight: C.S. Lewis


January’s Debatable brought a favorite author to the forefront of fond reminiscing: C.S. Lewis.

Known primarily for his classic allegorical tales of Narnia where Aslan represents Christ, Lewis did not start out as a children’s author.

Growing up without a mother (she died of cancer), he spent his early years in boarding school. Proving himself an superb student, he attended Oxford University and eventually began teaching English at Magdalen College, Oxford from 1925 to 1954.

Lewis brought up in the Protestant Church of Ireland, strayed from his beliefs as a teenager, and he might have been further influenced by his childhood tutor, an atheist.

However, as Lewis studied and taught, his readings brought him to the understanding of how Christ was at the center of many of the old writings. His further involvement with “The Inklings,” a group of academics and writers, which included Tolkien, Lewis converted to theism, a belief in God.

With his found discovery of religion, Lewis began a solid reputation as an apologist, with books such as The Screwtape Letters. He refrained from making specific references to a particular denomination in his writings, and remained an Anglican.

During World War II, three evacuee children came to stay with him, and he appreciated their joy of childhood. Combining this experience with his interests in mythology, Lewis decided to write a story based on his long held image of a faun carrying an umbrella and packages.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe started the popular Narnia Chronicles, and the seven book series remains popular, having influenced generations of readers.

There is more to C.S. Lewis beyond his unexpected popularity as a children’s writer. There is his relationship with Tolkien, his commitment to taking care of Mrs. Moore, his devotion to his brother, and his marriage to Joy. His story is a worthwhile study of how someone can survive loss and embrace a sincere appreciation of restoration.

I first met C.S. Lewis in a summer cabin as teen in high school. Somewhat bored, I picked up a book lying on a table, since the cover had caught my eye.

It reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time, that hinting of cosmic adventure awaiting a set of children. I casually began reading it, ignoring my friends, and only slightly feeling self-conscious about reading a book belonging to my friend’s kid sister.

I was hooked and sought out the series.

Read them all. Began reading the other works of Lewis (though not as enamored of them), watched Shadowlands, wrote a college paper on the influence of Medievalism in Narnia (had to convince my instructor on that one), and anticipated a movie that did the series justice (umm, not the BBC version), and rejoiced when one finally did arrive and was able to share that joy with my children, having waited ever so long for Mr. Tumnus to arrive. It was a memorable experience to pass on my joy of Narnia to my grand kiddo one summer visit as we read the book out loud together. The joy doubled when I realized my daughter was casually eavesdropping and added in her comments about Mr and Mrs Beaver. Generational book bonding is bliss!

C.S. Lewis died the same day JFK was assassinated. The interest in Lewis and his works continues to influence readers, academics, believers, and those who wonder “what if” about traveling to other worlds, other places to discover the end place is only the beginning.

Reading Round Up: December


Reading is my go-to for stress relief. And December is stressful. Some of you know what I’m talking about. Especially if you either teach or are a student or are a parent with children in school. Or are a person just dealing with the holiday rush. That about cover everyone? I suggest reading to calm that December tension. Here are my highlights. BtW: I read everything. I volunteer at our library when I have time and shelve books. Somehow I always end up with the children’s cart. I usually take home a couple. Channeling that inner child? Umm, how about it’s work-related research? I like to think I’m staying informed of what my students read.

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Excellent. Uniquely presented and memorable. The old story of two misfits by society’s standards gets a new fit as the Kevin the Freak(y) little brain teams up with Max the Mighty (big kid). Middle schoolers will gain from this book that there is so much more to first appearances. Those who appreciated Wonder will add Freak the Mighty to their list.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

It’s understandable why this is a Newberry Honor book. A WWII story with a different lens, one dialed in on looking at how some people are survivors in a different type of war. Ada is a survivor, and this is her story.

Set in Kent, England just as the war is starting, Ada and her brother Jamie are evacuees and slowly learn what love is once they are taken in by Susan, a survivor in her own manner.

The rushed ending prevents this being a solid 5 star review; however, it is a story of recommendation.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Another heartbreaking story from Gary Schmidt.

In this one, Jack tells Joseph’s story because Jack has Joseph’s back in more ways than one. Jack is able to convey well Joseph’s pain at being separated from what he cares for in life, and Schmidt relates Joseph’s emotional and physical travail through Jack’s honest observations. While there are moments of happiness, much of the story dwells on the sad, thought-provoking life of Joseph who is among the growing number of characters Schmidt portrays as having abusive fathers, and trying to make the best out of hard situations.

Schmidt’s storylines are reminiscent of Chris Crutcher’s penchant for telling hard stories about kids who need a break in life. But without the swearing.

The Happy Bookers by Richard Armour

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Armour, a prolific punster of over 50 books, creates a light-hearted history of the librarian. Written in 1976, it’s a tribute to celebrating the double anniversary of the American Library Association and the Dewey Decimal system.

Interwoven in all the puns are history nuggets about the library and their keepers. It is difficult not to laugh out loud at some of the humor. People overhearing your snickers will want to know what’s so funny. Save time and hand them the book to enjoy.

Julie by Helen Markley Miller

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Julie fits in well with other titles focused on young women who have to make adjustments to a new environment, such as Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky. Centered on the growing town of Twin Falls, Idaho, Miller tells the story of how sixteen year old Julie traveled with her father from the comforts of family life in Iowa to start a new life out west.

Full of lively dialogue and characterization, readers come to appreciate this story of how a town grow up out of the desert, and a young girl grew up to become a young woman of dreams, yet have her feet planted firmly in Idaho soil.

Twisted Tales From Shakespeare by Richard Armour

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Irresistible. Seriously, Shakespeare shouldn’t be taken as seriously as he tends be. After all, he knew how to have pun with words. Richard Armour also knows his way around puns and takes on Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and Othello and paraphrases these well-known plays with wit and plenty of wordplay.

A gem of amusement of both students and scholars. A four only because some of the punnery became a wee bit extreme. I can mock fun of Shakespeare just so much. I am a Bardinator after all.

I hope one of the listed titles intrigues you, and I am open to suggestions. I am always scouting out other reader blogs.

Author Spotlight: Ezra Jack Keats


Back when I began college, I enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program because I could earn an AA after studying little kids for two years. One of my better education decisions.

One of the highlights of the program was Children’s Literature. No kidding. The class was all about reading books for children. Every children’s writer should take such a class. We learned all about what makes for a successful children’s book, read all kinds of books, even learned how to run a proper story time. There is an art to reading a book out loud. I am so ready for the day when my book gets published and the local librarian invites me in to read it to wiggling masses of kiddos. That day isn’t quite here, but my AA in ECE has me primed and ready.

One author I briefly remember studying was Ezra Jack Keats. Mike Allegra’s recent Debatable (and *sigh* win) about Peter in The Snowy Day got me reminiscing about my Keats encounters. He wrote several books about Peter, and I remember we studied what a trailblazer he was for his colorful collage style combined with simple, yet meaningful text. There was also the fact that back when Peter first appeared he was among the first picture book characters of cultural diversity. We noted it, but I don’t remember dwelling on it. We instead focused on the appeal of Peter as enjoyed a snowy day, discovering how to whistle, finding goggles–just enjoying being a nice kid growing up with friends and family in the city.

One thing we didn’t touch on was Ezra Jack Keats. Looking him up, yah, Mike got me curious. I was surprised. I had made assumptions, and Chef Boyardee did I learn a lot. This article presents Keats so much better than I can. He is definitely an author deserving a spotlight.

So–go enjoy your inner child and read all about Peter. He is Macy’s Parade balloon worthy–almost as much as Tigger.

Reading Round Up: October


There is an unmitigated pleasure about fall sneak reading whilst propped in a backyard hammock. Bundling up against the wisp of autumnal breeze as it tries to nip at exposed flanks, the remaining warmth of the retiring sun definitely adds to the pleasure of a good read.

October marks the acknowledgment that summer reading as ended. By the time I get home from work the backyard is surrendering to shadows and I drag my hammock around on its reluctant stand trying to find patches of sun, reminiscent of a desperate sunflower. The lure of reading outdoors is different to suppress.

Here are October’s picks:

The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

It comes as a surprise I had not heard of Wallace Stegner until recently. I’m a bit embarrassed by that actually, especially when he is both a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner.

So glad I made the effort. But my first book encounter ended up with three pages in and a return to the book bag.

Spectator Bird remained on my list and while waiting for it to arrive I read All the Live Little Things, the companion novel, which turned well since it helped to understand the back story referenced. Quite the drama, and The Spectator Bird makes all the more sense having read about Joe’s dilemmas with becoming older and living with regrets he can’t or won’t bury.

A definitive story on living the present based on the past.

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Wonderful. Delightful. A novel that I found myself sneaking moments to read while trying to work. Dear Mrs. Bird is wartime drama that has provides lighter moments, providing a terrific balance of humor and stunning realism. WWII novels are thick upon the shelves, yet this debut novel is a stunner in how the details create a sense of being in the moment. Emmy and Bunty need a series, and it’s hoped this is a start.

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Recommendations from librarians rarely fail. Knowing I appreciated dystopian genres one of local librarians suggested I find Earth Abides. No easy task. Even with its solid reviews and reputation, I could not land an ILL and ended up reading a free e-book that sorely tried my appreciation of Stewart’s novel due to the numerous transference typos.

Similar to the Omega Man, a pandemic dramatically eradicates the world’s population and one man emerges who will make a difference. This man is Ish. He becomes what he refers to as the last American.

An excellent story, made all the more interesting since the technology is centered on what is available in 1949, the publish date.

All the Live Little Things by Wallace Stegner

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Written during the pulsing sixties, Stegner writes of the various ideals that existed together with deft, insightful prose: older establishment meets with hippie youth who mingles with alternative, creative lifestyle who befriends optimistic outlook. It all makes for a memorable, even compelling dramatic story. Joe, a gruff, outspoken literary agent and his forebearing wife, Ruth, escape the hectic city and retire in the placid hills of California. Their peace is shattered by a interloper Peck who becomes the serpent in their garden, as he interacts with each of Joe’s neighbors and touches each of their lives in irrevocable ways.

Stegner’s prose is impressive. Not only does he relate a complicated story, he evokes such smooth passages of imagery that one cannot rush through the story without pausing to savor his craft.

“For a long time that evening we sat on the terrace, while the swallows and later the bats sewed the darkening air together over the oaks…” p. 226

Lovely.

The story tended to switch forward and back in time sequence as Joe related events, which created a somewhat uneven flow of continuity, yet it might have emulated how Joe’s mind switched from present to past as he attempted to reconcile events.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Stewart

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This prequel to the Mysterious Benedict Society answers much about the mysterious Mr. Benedict met in the first book of the popular series. While less engaging than the first book, due to a rather boggy middle, the ending once again shows the cleverness of Trenton Lee Stewart.

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The world ends with a whimper, isn’t that what T. S. Eliot suggested? In Eric Walters novel, the first of a series, he explores how this present world might end once computers and other technology shuts off. Adam and his family, along with his neighborhood cope with the aftermath of what appears to be a global EMP strike. A bit bogged down in details, yet this supposition of how people would reaction in such a crisis situation creates an engaging read.

Smile by Raina Telegemeier

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book was recommended to me by a young patron while I was shelving books at the local library. His enthusiasm and assurance that it was a “very good book” intrigued me enough to check it out.

A memoir of the author who suffered a traumatic ordeal with her teeth as a teen, in the format of a graphic novel, turned out surprisingly better that I anticipated.

My short tour with braces was nothing compared with her procedure! I think tweens going through all the drama of middle school will appreciate Smile as it explores so many other issues besides getting braces.

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

“To much is given, much is required” is aptly applied to this fantasy story where the gifts bestowed upon individuals can provide both life and death to others. Two recipients of these gifts, Selene, who can enter people’s dreams, and Damien, who is able to manipulate water, must determine how their gifts will best benefit the people of their land while they struggle to combat the threat of dark alliances that threaten the overall peace.

Engaging and fast-paced, with an intriguing allegorical theme of choosing darkness or the light, Morgan Busse’s The Ravenwood Saga promises readers a series to anticipate following.

This book was provided by the publisher, and all commentary is mine.

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