2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

The Island Stallion (Black Stallion #4) by Walter Farley

I was an avid Walter Farley reader when I was in middle/school and high school. I have actually read the entire series and the beginning of his daughter’s series, The Phantom Stallion. I also remember this book in particular as it is my favorite of the series. It was exactly as I remembered it. It is a little too easy for me to read now, definitely meant for younger readers, but the vocabulary is great and the story moves well.

The plot follows Steve and his older mentor Pitch as they investigate an uninhabited island in the Caribbean. Pitch had moved to Antago to live with his brother Tom and work as his book keeper. Tom is the local horse wrangler for the wild horses that come off of Azul Island. The horses are nothing impressive, hardy little creatures full of spirit. Steve is mildly obsessed with horses. He goes to visit Pitch during summer vacation and agrees to spend two weeks on Azul Island with Pitch in exchange for any horse he wants on the island. While they are there, they see a magnificent stallion on the cliffs of the until then assumed uninhabited rock of the rest of the island. After an intensive search, Steve and Pitch discover a way into the interior of the island – a series of tunnels left by the conquistadores. The rest of the book is the discoveries they make and the growing connection between a boy and a stallion.

It is a fantastic book for young readers. The story revolves around loyalty, trust, compassion, and self-confidence. Also, the story moves well, with constant drama and action. I highly recommend this book to any reader in middle and high school, particularly ones who love horses. The series is also a great one. There is little to no swearing, all good clean reading that helps to inspire self-confidence and being true to ones’ self.

My rating:

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Random Thoughts

Changing Interests

As I get older (not that I’m very old – only 27) my taste in books is maturing. I’ve been told it would happen but I never really believed it. I still like romance but I pull away from the paranormal romance I used to gobble up like Tic Tacs. Also, I am branching out from romance into other genres mostly fiction and historical fiction for now, some mystery, too. I thank my reading challenge this year for helping me to branch out into new reading areas. It’s interesting to see what I’ll like and what draws me now that my tastes are maturing. I’m slowly venturing into biographies right now-I’m just careful to make sure it’s someone I find somewhat interesting to start with. Don’t be surprised if you see more non-romance books pop up on my review in the future. I’m looking forward to this growth and am choosing to embrace it. Happy reading!

2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

However Long the Night by Aimee Molloy

I was quite shocked by how much I enjoyed this book. I usually don’t go for biography or book about Africa, but this one called to me and I read it. I think it is a book everyone should read at least once in their life.

The story follows the life of Molly Melching and how she brought the knowledge of human rights to numerous villages throughout rural Senegal. Molly is originally from the U.S. and moved to Africa in her early twenties. She stayed because of how welcome and at home she felt, something she had never found anywhere else. After studying and working as a translator, she became obsessed with how to get education into the rural areas of Senegal where it was gravely needed to help maintain and encourage the improvement projects that were being put in place by NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization). She had several incarnations of organizations before founding Tostan – primarily setting up a local community center through the local Peace Corps then working with her (then) husband to establish a local education program for the village of Saam Njaay. Between these two organizations, she developed a teaching model that met the needs and cultural traditions of the rural community, allowing them access to basic information such as reading, writing, and hygiene.

When she finally broke out on her own and developed Tostan, she used what she had learned to develop an educational program that brought knowledge to the participants. Not only did the program teach reading and writing, but they were taught in connections with core ideas set up in modules – hygiene, basic health, leadership skills, and project development. After gaining success, she was prompted by receipt of funding to include a module on human rights and women’s health, including the dangers of FGC (female genital cutting) which was a widespread practice in Senegal. This last module was developed and presented with great care to be non-judgement and non-confrontational, simply presenting information that described the rights of women as outlined by the United Nations and gave the women information on their bodies they greatly wanted to know.

This module had an unexpected result. As the women grew in their belief in their rights and themselves, the communities started to change as women demanded their rights. The most stunning result was the decision by different villages to discontinue FGC, which caused anger and dismay with other villages. This led to the discovery of social norm connectivity and how members of a group will decide together.

As an educator and a woman, I found this book highly informative. Not only did I get an overview of life in Senegal, but I learned more about my rights as a woman and innovative educational practices I hope to someday use in my classroom. I thought it did a wonderful job of not only discussing Molly’s life, but also the different things she and her assistants learned over the years and the amazing stories shared by the brave women and men in Senegal who are attempting to bring an end to FGC in the country, and to spread the knowledge across borders.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially women and educators. It also gives you a glimpse into a life we cannot imagine in the United States and is a great way to learn about a mindset completely foreign to us. It definitely ranks on my “needs to be read” list for someone who will take the time to appreciate what they can learn from it.

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Amanda’s Blue Marine by Doreen Owens Malek

I found this book somewhat of a let down. Don’t get me wrong – it is a good book, just not quite what I wanted. I wanted a well-written book that followed a pretty standard storyline, but adapted it somehow. The adaptation was good, but it could have been worked a lot better in my opinion.

The story follows Amanda and Brendan. Amanda is a well-born woman who went to school to become a lawyer so she didn’t have to live off her trust fund. In her job as an assistant at the DA’s office, she picked up a stalker. She gets the red carpet treatment at the police station thanks to her father and ends up assigned to Brendan. Brendan helps to find her stalker and keep her safe, with the two of them falling for each other every step of the way. This causes problems with Amanda’s fiance, Tom. Amanda ends up choosing Brendan (not really a spoiler since it’s a romance novel). After they get together, Tom comes after them with a vengeance.

The characters could have been developed a little more strongly. Amanda is a solid character, well-developed and relatable. However, she is the only one. You don’t really learn anything about Brendan until the very end. He’s there and you know what he feels for Amanda and his job, but not a whole lot else. You don’t really know anything else about him until the end, and it’s mostly just a lot of background on him thrown into conversations. He goes through a lot at the end, but you never get a feel for what he is going through, how hard it is, what he is dealing with, or how Amanda is helping him through it. I think that would have been a great way to work this book, really get into how he was dealing with the issues at the end of the book.

The core of the book is good though and you cheer on the couple most of the way through. It could have been developed a little deeper, complicated the storyline a little more, but not a bad book. I’d recommend it to anyone who wanted a simple summer read or likes the books where the lady falls for her protector.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Treason at Lisson Grove (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #26) by Anne Perry

I was some what let down by this particular Anne Perry book. I am a huge Anne Perry fan and normally her books are creative with lots of twists and turns that make it hard to guess the answers to the mysteries. This one seemed more like a transition book. It was actually predictable for the most part with only a couple surprises. It was still good, but not up to her usual caliber.

If you read the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, you know that pit moves from the police to Special Branch then to the Commander of Special Branch. This is the book where he becomes the head of Special Branch. The book starts with Pitt chasing a suspect and ending up in France. Shortly after, Victor Narroway is accused of theft and relieved of his office. The story follows Pitt as he uncovers the Socialist plot afoot while Narroway seeks to clear his name. He travels to Ireland in order to resolve the issue by approaching the people he betrayed twenty years ago.

The book follows Charlotte and Narroway mostly in my opinion. You seem to get more of him and her than of Pitt. I love Charlotte, but the story was slightly awkward. Charlotte accompanies Naroway to Ireland because Pitt is busy in France and cannot help. Since Narroway is in love with Charlotte everything is just…awkward. Poor Thomas comes home to a mess – Narroway fired, Charlotte gone,…and a new maid. LOL I love the new maid. You don’t read much about her in this book, but she pops up in later stories and I like her.

All in all, not a bad book. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone just starting to read Anne Perry, but if you are trying to read the series, this book is one of the transition reads you need. It’s more a necessity to facilitate the changes that allow for the rest of the series.

My rating:

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