Book Review: Masterminds

Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Masterminds (Masterminds, #1)
by Gordon Korman
3 out of 5 stars

The town of Serenity is not as serene as it seems. Eli and his friends begin to discover that their seemingly perfect town is hiding dark secrets.

I really liked the mystery in this book, and the gradual unravelling of the secrets that the townspeople are hiding. The adventure aspects of the story are exciting and kept my attention, but sometimes felt far-fetched and unrealistic. I was rolling my eyes a couple of times.

The characters are smart and emotional, and they all have such unique personalities. I really enjoyed getting to know each of them, and seeing how their flaws and strengths push the story forward. They each react in different ways when they discover what is really going on in the town, and I can’t wait to see what further character development they might have in the rest of the series.

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Book Review: The Chemist

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

The Chemist
by Stephenie Meyer

3.5 out of 5 stars
Alex is a former spy interrogator on the run to escape the assassins being sent after her. She has one last chance to do a job for her former employers that might give her back her old life. But the job goes horribly wrong, and she finds herself in even more danger than ever before. Running for her life, she is weighed down by a budding romance with a man who is a liability in this cat-and-mouse game she is playing.

I’m not really sure what my reaction is to this book. There were some parts that I really loved, and some that I seriously didn’t like. I skimmed all the dumb stuff about the dogs. I skimmed most of the action scenes with car chases and guns. I got bored with the constant road trips.

But I liked the romance. It was sappy puppy-love stuff, but it was cute. However, it was just so blushing and blooming and adorable that it was a strange contrast to all the darkness in the rest of the plot. It was also awkward how quickly they fell for each other, and under such unusual circumstances. It felt a little forced.

I hated the violence and the torture. It gave me nightmares. Then again, if the writing was vivid enough to give me nightmares… that’s some good writing. Horrible subject, but effective writing.

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Picture Book Review: Welcome to the Symphony

Welcome to the Symphony by Carolyn Sloan

Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
by Carolyn Sloan
5 out of 5 stars

Three little mice attend an orchestral concert and learn about how the different instruments work together to create beautiful music as they play Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (That’s the famous one that goes da-da-da-duh). The mice learn about the concertmaster, the conductor, and all the sections in the orchestra. They learn about tempo and dynamics and themes in music.

As each instrument is introduced, the reader can push the button to hear music played by that instrument. What makes this really special is that the recording plays the exact music that is in the illustrations next to that instrument. If there is a staff drawn next to the oboe playing G, F, E, D in the Treble Clef, then we hear the oboe play those exact notes in the recording. This kind of attention to detail is what makes this book truly special!
(The only instrument recording that does not follow the music written in the book is the trombone, but you know how trombonists are. They rarely follow the rules! haha!)

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Non Fiction Review: One a Day Quotes to Destiny

One a Day Quotes to Destiny by Jana K. Alexander

One a Day Quotes to Destiny: Quotes for Life, Business, Purpose, Success, and Mentorship (Series One Book 1)
by Jana K. Alexander
3 out of 5 stars

This beautifully designed book features pages and pages of inspiring sayings that are sure to encourage you. There are statements about finding your purpose, living a successful life, and following your dreams.

Some of my favorites include:
“If you are able to conquer the little things, then the big things become nothing to overcome.”
“When people hear your music, it should paint a picture for them of God’s majestic eminence.”
“You may not have much in your hands, but within you is greatness.”

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Book Review: A Love for the Strangers

A Love for the Strangers by Rachael Kathleen Hartman

A Love for the Strangers: What the Bible Says About Loving Immigrants
by Rachael Kathleen Hartman (Author)
4 out of 5 stars
The Bible talks about “strangers” and “aliens” hundreds of times, calling Christians “strangers” in the world because our true home is in Heaven. The Israelites were commanded to welcome “strangers” into their community. God tells us more than once to love our neighbor (no matter where they come from) and to be compassionate toward those in need.

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Book Review: Mistress Masham’s Repose

Mistress Masham's Repose by T.H. White

Mistress Masham’s Repose
by T.H. WhiteFritz Eichenberg (Illustrator)
4 out of 5 stars
Delightful book!!
Rereading it for the second or third time, I have enjoyed it just as much as the first time.
Orphaned Maria lives in a crumbling old palace that her ancestors built on an extensive estate full of gardens and obelisks and temples and monuments. But there is no money to repair the palace, and she lives in poverty with her governess and one old cook.

When Maria is exploring around an island in a small lake, she encounters the tiny Lilliputian people who Gulliver brought back to England after his travels. They are in danger of being discovered by Maria’s evil guardians, the vicar and governess, and Maria must use all her ingenuity to save them from being kidnapped and sold as slaves.

I love how imaginative this book is. My favorite parts are the scenes that describe how the Lilliputians make their living on the Mistress Masham’s Repose island. They fish, and hunt, and train mice as their horses. They have their little homes in the roofs and hollow pillars of the Repose cupola, and keep their tiny farm animals in stables built into the steps of the structure.

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Classic Review: Emma by Charlotte Bronte

Emma by Charlotte Brontë

Emma
by Charlotte BrontëAnother Lady
4 out of 5 stars

This book is a continuation of Charlotte Bronte’s last writing before she died. She only finished the first two chapters of this book, and it has been finished by “another lady”. I am usually skeptical about modern authors trying to finish work from a classic author, but this was well done.

The writing doesn’t exactly mimic Charlotte Bronte’s writing style, but it does a fair job. The themes and plot have many elements that I would expect to find in a Bronte story. There is a gothic moodiness, plot twists, wild scenery, and of course, complex and compelling characters.

Mrs. Chalfont is a lonely widow who adopts an abandoned child and tries to penetrate the mystery of the child’s true identity. With the help of Mr. Ellin, she embarks on a journey of discovery and intrigue to unravel the secrets the child is hiding. It is only when the ruthless Emma appears on the scene that the depths of crime and hatred become apparent, and only Mrs. Chalfont can save the innocent child she has come to love.

I loved the story so much! I was laughing and crying and clutching the book to my heart! The emotional power in the story is very reminiscent of Charlotte Bronte’s style.

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Book Review: Mothstorm

Mothstorm by Philip Reeve

Mothstorm (Larklight, #3)
by Philip Reeve (Goodreads Author)
4 out of 5 stars

A mysterious cloud is approaching the solar system from deep space, and of course only Arthur and Myrtle can solve the mystery and save the British Empire and the nine planets (along with some asteroids and dwarf planets). They are joined by our favorite old characters and a few new ones, as they travel between the planets to fight for Queen and country.

I loved everything about this book! The plot, the characters, the hilarious writing, the world-building, the mystery, the adventure, and every single dramatic chapter all kept me reading for hours on end. This is one of those books where there isn’t a good place to stop reading. You just have to keep going through the next chapter and the next.

It’s wonderful to see how the entire trilogy is wrapped up beautifully in this last book. The plot comes together really well to solve problems and answer questions that have been hanging since the first book. I love how each thread of the story resolves into this great ending!

I am amazed at how imaginative this fantasy world is. The aliens and their strange cultures are all so intricate and well-formed, right down to the diseases, commerce, and vegetation of each planet. I love that it is set in a steam-punk 1850s British Empire full of space travel that has expanded to Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. It’s such an interesting solar system, and each planet has it’s own history and people who live there.

The writing style is very humorous with that sort of dry humor that I love. I was delighted at how some of the characters are doing their best to have good manners and polite modesty in the middle of their outlandish adventures. We may be about to be blown to smithereens by space pirates, but let us not forget proper courtesy and decorum. The whole book is hilarious!

The characters are really varied and interesting. They come from all sorts of backgrounds, and I loved the character development for so many of them. They change and grow and learn from one another.

Myrtle has some excellent development as she learns that she is stronger and more resourceful than she thought. She does NOT faint every time something dangerous happens, as a properly-educated young lady should do. Instead she begins to take little steps towards saving herself, instead of waiting for a hero to rescue her as a demure young lady should do. And through those little steps she moves on to bigger steps, until finally she gains enough confidence in her own abilities to have the courage to jump into the fray and save everyone.

I only wish there were more books in this series!