by Barbara Kingsolver

In rural Appalachia, the story of a boy who’s always down on his luck, but keeps trying to make the best of it. Damon (soon nicknamed Demon) doesn’t get a good start in life, at all. Teenage drug-addicted mother, deceased father, abusive step-father. Living in poverty and soon shunted around between dysfunctional (not to mention exploitative) foster homes. He’s surrounded by people both good and bad. He and some friends seem to make poor choices simply because their options are so few. What looks like bad choices to others, might simply be better than the worse ones easier to reach in front of them. So I though. Midway through this book things are looking a bit up for Demon- he finally gets into a better home and starts exploring some talents that could lead to a future. Then a football accident ruins his knee and drags his life down. An operation is a months-long wait that turns into never. He succumbs to addictive painkillers- so gradually you hardly see it happening. Slides into all kinds of bad situations. Somehow you keep rooting for this character. He seems good at heart, deep down. Maybe it’s the humor? I have to say, this book took me by surprise. I felt like this author wrote a young male voice pretty well- crude jokes, foul language and all- sometimes it had me cringing a bit, more times admiring. I’ve read all over the place that this novel is a patterened after David Copperfield but I haven’t read that so can’t compare. However the voice and circumstances reminded me of several others- The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. What it did not remind me of, was Kingsolver’s other books. This one is so different. I’m not sure if I actually liked it? as in, would I avidly read it again. So much of the story was just dismal things happening. It really kept me turning the pages, though.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
560 pages, 2022

made by Impact ~ photographers unknown ~ 500 pieces

My kid gave me some puzzles he wasn’t interested in anymore. Said “you’ll like this one, Mom- it has all the different weird shapes.” He was right! While it’s not my favorite kind of picture (collage) and there was a tad too much glare, the pieces were nice and sturdy in this one, and the shapes very fun. Totally random cut. It was a bit slow at first because I had to keep peering at the picture insert (which wasn’t much bigger than the box cover) to see which small photo each piece went in. But once I got a third done, much easier to just eyeball things and put them into place. This one is a brand I hadn’t done before, and I’m sorry to say it really irritated my skin (I had to use plastic gloves and the fingertips got all discolored) and it has a loose fit, so moving sections around had to be a piece at a time.

I’ve been using a different puzzle board lately, it’s a piece of chipboard (the kind looks like made from cardboard pressed together). It’s smaller than my plywood board, lighter weight so easier to pick up and move around (when I want to put it near a window for a photo- especially useful when the puzzle surface has so much glare). And nice that it has a bit of texture, so the pieces don’t slide when I tilt the board. Downsides are it doesn’t stay flat, bows a bit when propped up. Also with the lower contrast between the board and the puzzle itself, a tad harder to instantly visualize shape matches and pick out pieces. Plus it’s not big enough to spread all the pieces out on one surface, I have to get out a second board or use the tabletop. So might go back to using my plywood one again.

inherited

made by Passtime Puzzles ~ artist Jun Sato ~ 300 pieces

This puzzle was a great thrift store find! It was still sealed in the original plastic, pristine condition and no missing pieces. I hadn’t done one with whimsy pieces that isn’t a wooden puzzle before. Before opening it, I felt dubious about the quality- how would it hold up to intricate shapes, being cut from cardboard? Actually, it was very well made. Nice sturdy pieces. The shapes are oddly cut enough to be a lot of fun, but don’t have tiny little narrow parts that would make them get damaged easily. Some of them I just couldn’t tell what they were supposed to be, though. I think this is a badge, a lizard and a wrench?

Others were pretty easy to discern- here’s a duck, lamp, scissors, key, star, game piece, guitar, book, car, boot, thumb’s up, two sitting kids, and one that I thought looked like a hat with animal ears but it’s probably something else. There were more tool shapes and the Eiffel tower in here too, but I know I didn’t spot all thirty whimsy shapes!

And plenty of just unique oddballs, too! (along with regular-shaped pieces).

It was a decent challenge with the odd shape cut, while not being too hard  because of the relatively low piece count, so I finished in just a few sittings. Really nice after a frustrating puzzle to do one so engaging and fun.

a thrift store find

Wings of Fire Book 5

by Tui T. Sutherland

This fifth book wrapped up the plot arc of the dragonet prohecy. It’s narrated by Sunny, the smallest of the five dragon protagonists. I think she’s one of my favorite characters. Sunny is very kind and always the optomistic one. Unfortunately her friends often dismiss her as just being little and cute, not really consequential. But Sunny proves in this book that she’s quite clever, and can be just as bold and brave as any dragon. She’s off on her own in this story, determined to still do something about the war, even after that devestating revelation about the prophecy. She goes to the Sandwing kingdom where she learns more about her parentage (and why she’s different from other dragons), runs into an old enemy, and uncovers quite a few important secrets. Sunny comes up with a real plan to end the dragon war, a thing that seems nearly impossible as there’s plenty of dragons who are happy to drag it on for decades, no matter how many dragons die. I liked seeing more about the human “scavengers” in this book, who yes, do have more of a role to play in what’s going on with all the dragon tribes! Oddly, they seem able to understand the dragons, either that or they have their own knowledge of dragon history, based on some of their actions. I really hope that gets explained in future books in the series. Didn’t mention it before, but the last few books and this one have, alongside the spying, kidnapping and violence, a few love stories developing between certain dragons. And I liked how that was handled- it was just as complicated and confusing as real relationships can be, but these young dragons are figuring things out.

In the end of The Brightest Night, Sunny’s actions along with the support of her friends, draw all the dragons together in a final confrontation with the three warring Sandwing queens. Again, nothing in this final scene went as I expected, which is delightful. I think this series is really growing on me, much in the way the Animorphs did. It’s a story that has a lot more going on than you’d expect at first, with continued surprises for the reader. And a very satisfying ending.

Rating: 3/5
308 pages, 2014

More opinions: Charlotte’s Library
anyone else?

the Conversation That Could Save Your Life

by Pamela A. Popper and Glen Merzer

Yeah, I don’t know about this book. Kind of like the other one I pulled at random off a shelf browsing in the library, I thought it would be in general about healthy eating, but it seems to go to extremes. It is obvious not too far in that this book is written by two staunch vegans. They not only eschew eating any animal products, but no oils or nuts either. It’s promoting a strict no-dairy, no meat, very low-fat plant-only diet. And it goes on and on about how this will make your body so healthy you never get or miraculously recover from, a wide variety of diseases. One of the authors stated she hadn’t see a doctor in seventeen years. They are very negative about the medical establishment. Saying that tests for almost everything from mammograms to bone density scans are more harmful or useless than good. Saying that doctors don’t know anything about nutrition. Sharing a lot of sounds-to-good-to-be-true anecdotal stories about people with serious conditions who got better after going on this diet. Weird thing is that this book is one long transcribed conversation between the two authors. Personally I found that very easy to read, but it didn’t give enough detail or context with most things to satisfy me that I was reading facts. Funny thing is that when I was browsing before starting the book, the one page I flipped it open to at random, they were talking about people who have to avoid gluten. But that’s the only part of the book that talks about that at all. There’s some recipes. I copied a few down, just to try. Nothing wrong with adding more dishes featuring vegetables into my repertoire. I might come back and comment on here after I’ve attempted them.

Part of the book that was really off-putting were two final chapters, one all about how food industries are corrupt and FDA advice is bad and pharmecutical companies are bad, etc. Another that gets into politics. The authors just kind of lost me on all those points.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5
240 pages, 2013

the Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second Chances

by Rachel Anne Ridge

Eh, I waffled between giving this book a 2 or a 3– I did like reading it and it kept me turning pages, but once done I find I have very little to say. I actually finished it several days ago, in between some of those Wings of Fire books. It’s a memoir about this author’s life full of work, kids, everyday stressors and insecurities etc- very familiar stuff. Coming home from a long tiring work day, she and her husband find a donkey blocking the road. They struggle (for hours) to get him into their pasture, hoping to find his owner the next day. Nobody ever claims the donkey. Eventually the family becomes attached to him and decides to keep him, even though he’s just there. He never works or is trained to do any tasks, but the family members find his presence comforting and take inspiration from things he does. Some of this seemed like a bit of a stretch, honestly. It was charming and sweet, but I wished there had been more about the donkey and less about the author’s struggles to expand her business. Plus her religious musings. Almost every chapter ends with scripture quotes, thoughts about God and faith, and little inspirational sayings the author extracted from something the donkey did. With encouragements for the reader to apply these “lessons” to their own life. It was just a bit much in that regard.

Rating: 3/5

made in China ~ artist Abraham Hunter ~ 500 pieces

I did it! I finished all ten puzzles from the box. Completed several days ago, actually.

I had left this one (untitled) to do last, as it looked hardest. And my guess was correct. All those lovely, soft colors make for a very difficult puzzle! I feel like I got all the sky and water in place correctly, but the trees on the sides was a different matter. Very tricky, with all those pieces the exact same shape, and the detail so random. I became tired of it in the end, knew I had a few pieces in wrong places, kept going, got far enough to count how many pieces were left (about thirty) and realized one was probably missing. Then I just didn’t care anymore. I put them in more or less the correct area, and yep, one piece short. This was one of the puzzles that hadn’t been opened in the box yet, still sealed in plastic. It’s possible I lost a piece on my bed or on the floor, but I looked carefully, shook out all the blankets, swept the floor, nothing. Oh well! Moving on.

Here’s all ten puzzles laid out on my table boards.

Assembly of the final one:

from neighborhood free exchange

Wings of Fire Book 4

by Tui T. Sutherland

Warning for a pretty big SPOILER below!

This book felt a little darker than the earlier Wings of Fire books, and not just because some dragons die in horrible ways. A lot of it takes place in the Nightwing kingdom, which is doomed- natural disaster looming. The Nightwing dragons are in desparate need of a new home, and their plan is to relocate to the rainforest- ousting the Rainwing dragons by force. Luckily our narrator, Starflight in this case, with his companions starts to figure things out. He meets his father (the encounter is not stellar), finds out the Nightwing dragons do awful experiments, discovers why the Nightwing queen keeps herself hidden, meets the “alternate” dragonets of destiny, and starts to realize what’s really going on behind everything. One of the evil, machinating older Nightwing dragons literally pitches the young dragonets against each other, but instead of succumbing to the temptations to fight Starflight cautiously makes friends with some of his peers. I really like his character, even though he struggled to find his voice. I found him just as interesing as Glory was, for different reasons. Starflight is worried the Rainwing dragons will think he’s come back to the Nightwing kingdom to betray them, but he manages to kind of save the day in the end, getting messages across (via a magical object) and delightfully, the Rainwing dragons in spite of their laidback attitudes and lack of fighting skills, prove they have means to overcome their enemies without using brutal force. The biggest shocker came at the end though, when the scheming older Nightwing reveals to the dragonets that he made up the whole prophecy thing. No wonder he was trying to force things to go his way. The young dragons are reeling from this revelation, it makes everything they’ve worked for so far seem worthless.

There’s so much to like in this story, I can’t help leaving a lot out. In spite of the dark aspects, there’s lots of charming moments between friends, and funny bits. In spite of the violence and distrust going on around them, the five dragonets staunchly keep asserting their goal- to find a way to peacefully end the war. To help the other dragon tribes get along, not solve everything by killing each other. Their ideas seem odd or misguided to most other dragons, but some of them are starting to come around to this new viewpoint.

And I’m getting more intrigued by the glimpses we have of “scavengers” or the humans in this world. I suspect they’re going to have a role in what happens with the dragons at some future point. Every now and then one of our main characters will come across a few scavengers and take pity on them (because the eyes look so intelligent) and carry them to safety or simply refrain from eating them. Then they move on without another thought. I wonder if this is starting to affect the humans- do they notice that some of the dragons have mercy, will it influence their behavior, perhaps they’ll turn a hand to help the dragons out (unexpectedly, because they’re so puny!) hm. Just me speculating here.

Rating: 3/5
295 pages, 2013

More opinions: Charlotte’s Library
anyone else?

made in China ~ artist Abraham Hunter ~ 500 pieces

So much orange! But again, this puzzle was easier than the smaller ones. The bright colors helped, and the piece edges didn’t stand out too much at the end to be annoying. There’s only one spot where I think I had pieces in the wrong place- dead center, where the leaves are scattered on the ground all abstract.

from neighborhood free exchange

Wings of Fire Book 3

by Tui T. Sutherland

Note there are probably some SPOILERS if you haven’t read so far in the series.

This book is from Glory’s viewpoint. Now the dragonets head into the rainforest kingdom. Again, nothing is as they expected. Really, there weren’t many expectations as nobody knows much about the Rainwing dragons, but Glory was hoping to find that the slanders she’s heard all her life about Rainwings being lazy were untrue. Unfortunately, it seems there was a reason for that stereotype. The rainforest dragons certainly are different, and have a very relaxed, unconcerned attitude about almost everything. They reminded me of the futuristic humans in H.G. Well’s Time Machine, and in some ways also a certain rabbit warren in Watership Down where everyone enjoyed the plenty and ignored the dark side of things. Because although the Rainwing dragons are beautiful and life in their kingdom seems easy, some of them have been disappearing- and nobody cares to find out why or look for them. Glory and her friends are appalled at this attitude, and take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and rescue the missing dragons. In the course of their investigation, they find hidden magic passages to other parts of the world, sneak into a Sandwing fortress in disguise, meet an assassin who has the most unlikely personality for that job ever, become acquainted with the third Sandwing queen Blaze (who is just as shallow and unintelligent as the rumors always said). Another big surprise in this book is that the Nightwing dragons don’t appear to be as all-knowing and dangerous as they’ve led others to believe. Some of the dragonets end up in the Nightwing kingdom, which is a dark and dismal place. Also conspiracies are coming to light- apparently the Nightwings and the Talons of Peace each have “replacement” dragonets they’d rather use to fulfill the prophecy, and some of our gallant young five are wanted dead.

No surprise, there’s continued violence and threats in this book. Some of the dragons are downright cruel to each other. Then there are absolutely silly scenes, like when Blaze is going on about throwing a party for the dragonets, totally oblivious to the reality of the situation she’s in. Or when Glory, frustrated at the Rainwing’s lack of action regarding the missing dragons, decides to challenge the current queen, and finds herself in a series of competitions to win the position. Full of squabbles and cheating, just like a bunch of children. It was at turns amusing and intriguing. I did really like reading Glory’s perspective- she realizes that some of her difficulties come from having grown up shut away in a cave, when Rainwing dragons thrive on sunshine (literally, they need to soak up sun to recharge their energy). She’s glad to finally experience the life she was supposed to have lived, but also unsettled by how, well, lazy and unproductive it seems. Among other things. This story kind of barrels through everything and pitches the reader into a cliffhanger, so I’m on to the next soon.

Two other details I found really interesting: the Nightwing dragons appear to have some similarities to komodo monitors, in how they feed. And the sloths in the Rainwing kingdom annoyed me. Not that the dragons kept them as pets, or the constant reference to their cuteness, or their muffled unintelligible noises, but that they were described as scampering or otherwise reacting at normal speed. Maybe in this made-up world sloths aren’t so very slow? Minor thing, but it just kind of threw me off because it was so unlikely, that part of their behavior.

 

Rating: 3/5
336 pages, 2014

More opinions: Charlotte’s Library
anyone else?

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL:

Subscribe to my blog:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

VIEW MY PERSONAL COLLECTION:

TRADE BOOKS WITH ME ON:

ARCHIVES: 

2023
January 2023 (25)
2022
January 2022 (12)February 2022 (7)March 2022 (13)April 2022 (16)May 2022 (13)June 2022 (21)July 2022 (15)August 2022 (27)September 2022 (10)October 2022 (17)November 2022 (16)December 2022 (23)
2021
January 2021 (14)February 2021 (13)March 2021 (14)April 2021 (7)May 2021 (10)June 2021 (5)July 2021 (10)August 2021 (27)September 2021 (16)October 2021 (11)November 2021 (14)December 2021 (12)
2020
January 2020 (14)February 2020 (6)March 2020 (10)April 2020 (1)May 2020 (10)June 2020 (15)July 2020 (13)August 2020 (26)September 2020 (10)October 2020 (9)November 2020 (16)December 2020 (22)
2019
January 2019 (12)February 2019 (9)March 2019 (5)April 2019 (10)May 2019 (9)June 2019 (6)July 2019 (18)August 2019 (13)September 2019 (13)October 2019 (7)November 2019 (5)December 2019 (18)
2018
January 2018 (17)February 2018 (18)March 2018 (9)April 2018 (9)May 2018 (6)June 2018 (21)July 2018 (12)August 2018 (7)September 2018 (13)October 2018 (15)November 2018 (10)December 2018 (13)
2017
January 2017 (19)February 2017 (12)March 2017 (7)April 2017 (4)May 2017 (5)June 2017 (8)July 2017 (13)August 2017 (17)September 2017 (12)October 2017 (15)November 2017 (14)December 2017 (11)
2016
January 2016 (5)February 2016 (14)March 2016 (5)April 2016 (6)May 2016 (14)June 2016 (12)July 2016 (11)August 2016 (11)September 2016 (11)October 2016 (9)November 2016 (1)December 2016 (3)
2015
January 2015 (9)February 2015 (9)March 2015 (11)April 2015 (10)May 2015 (10)June 2015 (2)July 2015 (12)August 2015 (13)September 2015 (16)October 2015 (13)November 2015 (10)December 2015 (14)
2014
January 2014 (14)February 2014 (11)March 2014 (5)April 2014 (15)May 2014 (12)June 2014 (17)July 2014 (22)August 2014 (19)September 2014 (10)October 2014 (19)November 2014 (14)December 2014 (14)
2013
January 2013 (25)February 2013 (28)March 2013 (18)April 2013 (21)May 2013 (12)June 2013 (7)July 2013 (13)August 2013 (25)September 2013 (24)October 2013 (17)November 2013 (18)December 2013 (20)
2012
January 2012 (21)February 2012 (19)March 2012 (9)April 2012 (23)May 2012 (31)June 2012 (21)July 2012 (19)August 2012 (16)September 2012 (4)October 2012 (2)November 2012 (7)December 2012 (19)
2011
January 2011 (26)February 2011 (22)March 2011 (18)April 2011 (11)May 2011 (6)June 2011 (7)July 2011 (10)August 2011 (9)September 2011 (14)October 2011 (13)November 2011 (15)December 2011 (22)
2010
January 2010 (27)February 2010 (19)March 2010 (20)April 2010 (24)May 2010 (22)June 2010 (24)July 2010 (31)August 2010 (17)September 2010 (18)October 2010 (11)November 2010 (13)December 2010 (19)
2009
January 2009 (23)February 2009 (26)March 2009 (32)April 2009 (22)May 2009 (18)June 2009 (26)July 2009 (34)August 2009 (31)September 2009 (30)October 2009 (23)November 2009 (26)December 2009 (18)
2008
January 2008 (35)February 2008 (26)March 2008 (33)April 2008 (15)May 2008 (29)June 2008 (29)July 2008 (29)August 2008 (34)September 2008 (29)October 2008 (27)November 2008 (27)December 2008 (24)
2007
August 2007 (12)September 2007 (28)October 2007 (27)November 2007 (28)December 2007 (14)
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
1976
1975
1974
1973
1972
1971
1970
1969
1968
1967
1966
1965
1964
1963
1962
1961
1960
1959
1958
1957
1956
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950