Book Review: Refugees on the Run

Refugees on the Run
The Imagination Station #27
by Chris Brack & Sheila Seifert

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Historical children’s fiction, Christian

In this final of a 3-part story arc, cousins Beth and Patrick find themselves in Lithuania sometime in the mid 1940s. A crowd of Jewish families are trying to get into the Japanese consulate building, in the hopes that they can find the means of escaping from the approaching Nazis. Beth and Patrick find themselves in the middle of the battle, as Beth tries to help a Lithuanian Jewish family and Patrick does his best to assist the Japanese consul.

I really enjoyed this story and the way it presents a difficult time in history to kids in a way that doesn’t completely gloss over the danger, but doesn’t go into detail either. I really appreciated that it introduced me, and thus will introduce kids, to a man who helped rescue many Jews, but isn’t nearly as well-known as others. It’s incredibly coincidental that I read this directly after reading Schindler’s List (seriously, it was not on purpose) and really liked seeing the parallels there.

I didn’t know much about this book or the series it’s part of when I started reading. I also hadn’t read the previous 2 books in the in-series arc, but the beginning of the story did a good job of telling me what I needed to know (which wasn’t much). The slight mystery/puzzle angle to the story, that the kids were trying to find some kind of liquid needed by the Imagination Station, allowed another layer to be added to the story. And though a couple of times throughout the story I thought about how unrealistic certain things would have been, especially the inclusion of children in consulate matters, it’s not too hard to remind myself that Imagination Station adventures are meant to put kids right into the middle of things, and these are programmed virtual adventures, not a real trip back in time. (I have enough experience with Adventures in Odyssey overall to be familiar with the Imagination Station.)

I do recommend this book for kids up to 12 years old, but AiO overall is fairly timeless, so the age limit is a soft one. I already have recommended it to my 11-year-old daughter, who has decided to start at the beginning of the series. As for me, I was left with a strong desire to read the earlier 2 books in this 3-story arc and then eventually will probably go back to the beginning of the series too.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tyndale House Publishers/Focus on the Family for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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Publication date: June 8, 2021

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Book Review: The Legend of Annie Murphy

The Legend of Annie Murphy
The Cooper Kids Adventure Series book #7
by Frank Peretti
read by the author

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian adventure, mystery (with some sci-fi)

When investigating tales of a ghost sighting, the Cooper family–dad Jacob and teens Jay and Lila–find themselves caught up in a mystery 100 years in the making. A woman who’d been accused of killing her husband out of greed 100 years in the past was killed while escaping her punishment, and now her ghost is being seen around the ruins of the long-abandoned town.

I spent the first third or so of this book completely flabbergasted. The beginning of the story was such a departure from the previous books in the series, I was certain it was going to turn out that something else was going on. But when it became clear that Jacob’s friend Mac’s theory about a gravity vortex causing time and space to go wonky was actually what was going on, I struggled to accept it and move on. Eventually, I reminded myself that it’s not necessarily against the theme of this series of books. Sometimes there’s not much suspension of disbelief to swallow, while other times, God-attributed supernatural events occur.

With that understanding in mind, I can view this book a little differently than I did while listening to a lot of it. The story, then, with the vehicle of time travel in place, becomes about solving the mystery of the legend, finding out what really happened 100 years ago. And that itself is a good story. The kids follow along as the story is told in the past, while their dad and his friend try to sort it out in the present time, and it’s interesting how it all plays out. I won’t say there isn’t some predictability to it, at least to an adult reader, but I think the age group its meant for won’t have read as many mysteries or seen as many TV shows or movies as adults have, making it more fresh for them. I again enjoyed listening to the audiobook and would say that, though it may seem outlandish at first, it’s a good story overall and worth reading if you’re interested.

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Book Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell

Mr. Kiss and Tell
Veronica Mars #2
by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Mystery

When a woman who was attacked at the ritzy Neptune Grand blames an employee of the hotel, Veronica is hired to prove that she is lying. Veronica, of course, prefers to take the case further and find out who really was behind the attack, if the woman was indeed lying. However, as she starts to peel back the layers to this case, she’s reminded that things aren’t always what they seem and that justice often takes a back seat to apathy.

I liked this book a little more than the previous, for various reasons. The main one is the inclusion of the side plot involving Weevil’s arrest from the end of the Veronica Mars movie. But I also feel like the main mystery plot held my attention a bit more. Maybe the set-up resembles mysteries Veronica has gone after before, which can make it feel a little overdone at first, but it didn’t bother me as much as it might others. It was interesting to see Veronica questioning certain choices when she looks around and sees what might have been–both in her personal life and in her career. The story spans several months, just like the over-arcing mysteries do in the show, but instead of being able to see the day-to-day cases she works on (because it’d be too much for one book), we just see gaps in time. What bothered me, though, is that Veronica let her obsession on this case, even after it was officially closed with the client, lead her to ignore everything else, which isn’t really like her. Plus, her response to being caught in a few different compromising situations in her investigating also seems a bit off from what we know of her.

Regarding the Weevil plot, I loved it. Keith and Cliff working together to try to bring down Sheriff Dan Lamb felt like all the old show magic coming back. And even more so, in the end, there’s no easy victory, no sugary outcome, not even always a “good guy” or “bad guy” left standing in the end. I even liked the fact that Sheriff Don Lamb, for all his corrupt and just plain mean ways, was remembered for that one decent thing he did.

While the audiobook for the previous book in the series was narrated by Kristen Bell, that was not the case with this book, so I read it myself. I still liked it a lot, and because I’ve seen the show so much, had no trouble imagining the characters as they were portrayed in the show. Whether or not this book would hold up for people who’ve never seen the show, I can’t say for sure, though I’d guess probably not. I’m not sure it’s meant to, either. For fans of the show, though, I definitely recommend this book and the one preceding it.

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Book Review: Crocodile Meatloaf

Crocodile Meatloaf
Alex series books #12
by Nancy Simpson Levene

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children, Christian

Alex meets the new girl in class, Rachel, who is deaf, and feels protective of her when the obnoxious boys torment her. Alex learns that God has a plan for her life and wonders if that plan could start now, even though she’s a kid, and if it might just be related to Rachel.

Though Alex is a little older now than in the books I remember from my childhood, she’s still learning about all that God has to offer, even to a kid. What I miss, though, from her younger days are the situations she’d get herself into as she tried to correct some kind of mistake she made. This book is more about external problems than internal ones, which doesn’t make it bad. Just different. I still like the way Alex tries her best to help or to fix things (whether her own mistakes or someone else’s). I’m not sure how realistic the turn-around is near the end, but overall, it’s a good book with solid lessons. If you have an opportunity to pick up any of the Alex series books, I recommend them. They’re short, quick reads that children will be able to connect to.

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April in Review

I read 10 books last month, about an average month for me, though probably a little lower than average in page count, due to a few very short books in there. I stopped listening to audiobooks as regularly part way through the month, mostly because I couldn’t decide on the next book to listen to, so I may have to push past that problem this month.

Here are the books I read in April:

The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey by Frank E. Peretti (4 / 5)
An Elegant Façade by Kristi Ann Hunter (3 / 5)
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (5 / 5)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (5 / 5)
The Purple Nightgown by A.D. Lawrence (4 / 5)
Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse by Lee Goldberg (4 / 5)
The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden (4.5 / 5)
A Woman of Words by Angela Hunt (3.5 / 5)
The Silver Shadow by Liz Tolsma (2 / 5)
Crocodile Meatloaf by Nancy S. Levene (review pending)

This list includes 3 ARCs and 1 re-read. My favorite book from April was The Spice King. I finished (or caught up on) 2 series*, continued 1 series, and started 3 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

*This includes 1 series that I did not reach the end of but decided not to continue reading, after being 2 books into the series.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.