Monday, May 23, 2016

Winter of the Ice Wizard by Mary Pope Osborne

Winter of the Ice Wizard by Mary Pope Osborne (audiobook)-110 pages in print

Teddy and Kathleen visit Jack and Annie in present day to deliver a message from Merlin. Jack and Annie's mission is to recover Merlin's staff from the Ice Wizard of Winter on the Winter Solstice, which actually turns out to be a message sent by the Ice Wizard to lure Jack and Annie to his palace to find his eye. They recover the Ice Wizard's eye from the Frost Giant who had been given the eye by the Fates. Teddy and Kathleen bring the Wizard's sister back to him and she forgives him, so Merlin and Morgan, who had been turned into white wolves by the Wizard, are humans again and the day is saved once again. I really enjoyed listening to these 4 Magic Tree House books on audiobook. I enjoyed reading them as a kid and they still bring some enjoyment, though not as much as back then.

The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory --- 450 pages including Author's Note and Bibliography.

The final volume in the Tudor Court Series tells the story of Henry VIII's sixth and final wife, Kateryn Parr. The twice-widowed daughter of a northern knight, Kateryn is ordered to put off her mourning and attend the court, where the King announces his intention of marrying her.  Kateryn had hoped to marry Thomas Seymour, one of the brothers of the late Queen Jane, but both she and Thomas understand their lives will be forfeit if the King ever hears even a hint of their affair.

Kateryn, a woman with strong religious convictions, does her best to be a good wife to her aging and devious husband, a good mother to the king's three motherless children, and a good queen to the people who have endured Henry's increasingly tyrannical rule.  She convinces herself that her devotion has secured the King's affection and respect. It is a terrible shock to discover that no one, not even his wife --- especially his wife --- should rely on Henry for anything at all, ever.

An  mix of historical fact and true confessions-style fiction.

Click HERE to read a review from the UK Telegraph.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus Review.

Click HERE to read a review from Publishers Weekly.

Click HERE to read a review from the Historical Novel Society web site.

Click HERE for a video Q&A with the author from

Summer of the Sea Serpent by Mary Pope Osborne

Summer of the Sea Serpent by Mary Pope Osborne (audiobook)-111 pages in print

It has been a while (since last Halloween) that Jack and Annie have been called on a Merlin Mission and it is the first day of the Summer Solstice. Later the same day, they find out that Merlin has a new mission for them: to brave many obstacles and find/recover a sword so that King Arthur survives to become King of Camelot. Once again, they have to follow a rhyme/riddle to complete their mission. The first obstacle, the cave of the Spider Queen, would be really creepy, as I do not like spiders, especially giant ones (also, it reminds me of the giant spider(s) from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Hobbit). The Spider Queen actually helps Jack and Annie, though. Teddy shows up to help them and introduces them to a new friend, a girl named Kathleen. As usual, Jack and Annie are able to complete their mission, in spite of all the obstacles. It is cool that the author reads for the audiobook. A few other authors have done the same (Neil Gaiman is one) to varying degrees of success.

The Call of Earth by Orson Scott Card

The Call of Earth by Orson Scott Card -- 352 pages

This is book 2 of "The Homecoming" series.

Nafai and his family have been chosen by the Oversoul to travel back to earth and repopulate it, but it won't be as easy as standing up and leaving. One problem is that they have no wives with them. Another is General Moozh, who deliberately fights any attempt from the Oversoul to guide him. Now General Moozh can tell that the Oversoul is trying to keep him from taking Basilica, but not even a mind-controlling computer can stop him.

I listened to the eaudiobook.

Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark

Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark - 218 pages

Juliette and Abram meet while both are getting their prescriptions filled at the CVS.  They know of each other but have avoiding one another since their parents died together in a car crash and it came out they had been having an affair.  Juliette knows she should avoid Abram, but yet she can't seem to stop running into him.

This book has everything in it -- depression, prescription pill addiction, eating disorders, parental abandonment, and more.  Even with way too many things stuffed into a short book, it was interesting to read.  I'm looking forward to seeing what else the author writes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve by Mary Pope Osborne

Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve by Mary Pope Osborne (audiobook)-128 pages in print

Merlin invites Jack and Annie back to Camelot on Hallows Eve (Halloween) to find the Stone/Diamond of Destiny, which has gone missing. They are instructed to "bring order back to the Duke's Castle" by Merlin and Teddy (whom they have worked with before) is sent with them to help. Together with Teddy, they are able to recover the Diamond of Destiny from the Raven King and save everyone in the Duke's Castle/restore or bring order back to the Castle. I think it would be really fun to explore a "haunted" castle on Halloween (or any time), although a half-raven, half-human creature would be kind of creepy. It's kind of fun that Jack and Annie have to use rhymes and riddles to complete the missions that they go on. This one was fun to listen to on audiobook, as well.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara

A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara (audiobook)-562 pages in print

I enjoyed listening to this on audiobook, though the reader's presentation of some of the characters is a bit disappointing and it is 22 hours long. This is a novelization of the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi by the Union Army in 1863, culminating with the surrender of the Confederate Army on July 4, 1863. I really like Shaara's portrayal of Fritz "Dutchie" Bauer, a Private on the front lines and his portrayal of Lucy Spence, a young, single civilian woman in Vicksburg, as well as his portrayals of Generals Sherman and Pemberton. I really like Shaara's humanization of these historical events and his portrayal of the key figures involved in them. This might actually be my favorite Jeff Shaara novel so far, although I do like them all, to a degree.