March Minireviews – Part 2

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Rose Bride by Nancy Holder – 3.5*

//published 2007//

This story started strong, but got rather muddled.  It also honestly seemed really lame to me because basically different mothers beg the gods (and goddesses) to show their children that they’re loved, and the way the goddesses complete this task is by killing off basically everyone in those children’s lives and making them suffer horrifically until they finally find each other…!??!  I’m just never a fan of stories where the main character is very Job-like in that they just keep getting hit with one tragedy after another.  It gets old and same-y after a while.

So while this one wasn’t bad for a one-time read, it wasn’t so amazing that I yearn to read it again and again.

The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer – 3*

//published 2015//

This was one of those books where I honestly probably only got 2* of enjoyment out of it, but because it did keep me glued to the pages I feel like it deserves the added star.  This wasn’t a bad book, per se, but it incorporated a plot device that I always feel is cheating, because it means that the author doesn’t have to actually explain anything or even make any of it make sense.  So not a bad book, and I definitely wanted to find out what was going to happen, but in the end not really my type.

Compass American Guides:  Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by Brian Kevin – 4*

//published 2009//

So we are actually planning two big trips this year and I am super excited about both. In May we are heading south to Great Smoky National Park, and in September we are heading west to Yellowstone and Grand Teton.  In some ways, Yellowstone is kind of stressing me out because it is SO huge that I know there is absolutely no way that we can begin to see even a fraction of all there is to see, so I want to make the best of our time there, which, for me, means loads of research!  Luckily I have quite a bit of time to learn as much about these two gigantic, beautiful parks as I can.  (And yes, I’m the kind of person who actually reads travel guides cover-to-cover.  Not sure exactly what that says about me as a person haha)

This Compass guide was a fantastic place to start, and I’m super disappointed that there aren’t more of them for more parks (like Great Smoky for instance…).  It’s a great blend of a traditional travel guide with lots of photos, tips, and information.  The guide is divided into three main chapters, two for Yellowstone (one each for the south and north loops) and one for Grand Teton.  This book really helped me to get my head around the different areas of the parks and what they have to offer.  There was also a lot of information about places to stay and eat, which could be useful when we’re closer to the actual trip.  My one complaint about this book is that the maps are infrequent and not that great.  I’m very visual and way into maps, so that would have really helped increase my understanding of the parks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park:  Adventure, Explore, Discover by Amy Graham – 3*

//published 2009//

One thing that I learned back when I was doing lots of different research projects and papers for various projects in college was that if there is a children’s book on the subject, it can be a great place to start to get a basic overview.  Nonfiction children’s books tend to strip a subject down to its basic essentials, which are then presented in layman’s terms.  I have found it to frequently be a great way to help me get a simple overview of a topic.

This book is part of a series that is obviously for children who are writing a report on a topic, as it focuses on providing a lot of other resources, like websites, throughout the book.  In and of itself it’s a pretty simple, rather unexciting, presentation of the park’s natural and social history.  I honestly felt like this book could have said a lot more about what the park is about today, as the chapters on the history make up the bulk of the book.  Still, as I had hoped, this book did provide a decent overview that helped me get my head around some of the basics of the most-visited national park in the country.

Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd – 3*

//published 2019//

This was an enjoyable middle-school read with a likable protagonist and an imaginative setting.  While I enjoyed this story, it didn’t really hit that MAGIC chord deep inside, although it was still a really fun story that I would recommend for middle readers.

A Snicker of Magic

by Natalie Lloyd

Published 2014

So I ended up adding this book to the TBR because I just kept reading reviews about it, and even though I was reading reviews from people who usually don’t like the same books, everyone seemed to agree that this book was fantastic.  While A Snicker of Magic wasn’t a book that I necessarily had to add to my shelf immediately (like my recent experience with The View from Saturday), it still had a strong dose of that indescribable something that makes a book magic – something that goes beyond the objective facts of whether a book flows well or is grammatically correct or well-organized or has strong character development – you can read a book that has all those things and is still as dull as a brick.  But every once in a while you’ll find those books that are magic, and I think that A Snicker of Magic falls into at least the edge of that category.

Felicity Pickle has spent most of her young life traveling.  Her mother is a wanderer at heart, and can’t seem to settle down.  Along with her little sister, Frannie, and their dog, Biscuit, Felicity and her mom have lived a variety of places around the country.  But Felicity doesn’t love the wandering like her mother does, and yearns for a place to settle down and call home.  She thinks that she may have found that place in Midnight Gulch, a town that used to be magical.

This is a book about words, and, appropriately, the writing is beautiful.  Felicity’s quest for home and family isn’t really anything particularly new, but it’s told in a way that is endearing and lovely.  I love the way that everyone in this book is fiercely loyal to those they love.

I made a big show of catching invisible words in my hands and putting them in my mouth and chewing on them.  I knew my word-catching charade wasn’t the best way to make a fast friend at Stoneberry Elementary School.  But it was the only way I could think of to make my little sister feel better.  And I think if you’re lucky, a sister is the same as a friend, but better.  A sister is like a super-forever-infinity friend.

Felicity isn’t ashamed that her best friend is her little sister, and she doesn’t mind hanging out with her crazy aunt, a boy in a wheelchair, or her has-been uncle.  This book isn’t really about learning how to not-judge people – it’s just about people who aren’t judging, and it’s refreshing.  There aren’t any villains or bad guys in this book, and that’s nice, too.  I love the way that Felicity and her friend, Jonah, do their best to help everyone around them.  The fact that Jonah is in a wheelchair is never a big deal as part of this story, and the very fact that Jonah’s big purpose in life is to find ways to help others is just fantastic to me.  The way that Felicity learns to use her word-capturing power to encourage people is great, too – this entire book is, in many ways, about the power of words.

Boone smiled.  “Do you see any words hovering around me right now?”

I nodded.  I definitely saw some words:

Regret
Has-Been
Idiot
Deadbeat

“Well?”  Boone blinked at me.  “What words do you see?  Can I use them in a new song?”  ….

“New beginning,” my voice crackled.  “Those are your words: new beginning.”  I didn’t make eye contact with Mama.  She’d know it was a fib.  And anyhow, I wasn’t lying, not exactly.  I might not have seen those exact words sitting on my uncle’s shoulders, but they were still true words.  They could be at least.

“Yeah?”  Boone’s cheek dimpled like he was about to smile at me.  “New beginning?”  ….

A smile stretched full and easy across Boone’s face.  He sat up taller in his seat and nodded, just once.  Affirmative.  He believed me.

Craziest thing happened then:

Regret, Has-Been, Idiot, Deadbeat…

I watched every last one of those words pop like bath bubbles and disappear.

I really, really enjoyed this book, and definitely recommend it.  It’s a middle-school-aged book, and I think that it is an excellent story to get into their hands – a story about the power of words, the importance of family and love, and the beauty of forgiveness and new beginnings.