Notebook Collection, part 12

It’s official. I have a sickness. I had planned to get caught up on new notebooks with this post, but then, I bought 3 more. And then last week, my husband and I took a trip, and I came back with SEVEN notebooks! Even for me, even though buying notebooks on vacations is common for me, seven is a lot. Now it’ll take me 2 more posts after this one to be caught up. I know I say this often, but I really need to stop buying notebooks.

Past posts about the collection I have so far: Post #1  |  Post #2  |  Post #3  |  Post #4  |  Post #5  |  Post #6  |  Post #7  |  Post #8  |  Post #9 | Post #10 | Post #11

Now and then, I buy a notebook for which I can’t really explain my interest. As soon as I saw this in a local bargain store, though, I knew that I had to buy it. The unique design that made it interesting to me will make it difficult to actually use, as the pages inside are split the same way the cover is. But since I have so many notebooks and won’t use most of them for a really long time (if ever, as sad as it makes me to say that), it’s easy to disregard the potential difficulty. The pages, both top and bottom parts, have images of various food on them too. I really wonder who the creator(s) of this notebook had in mind when designing it.

This notebook came from the store in our area that’s only open at Christmas time. Curious George was a major favorite show of both of my kids, now 20 and 12, so it will always hold a special place in my heart too.

This notebook and the one below were picked up in the Dominican Republic when I went down there for a week to visit my sister’s family and bring my daughter back, who visited for a month. I knew the one souvenir I wanted to be sure to get was a notebook of some kind that would reflect the culture down there in some way. In particular, I was hoping for some Spanish (which I don’t speak) as a reminder of my time there. Though both of these notebooks were picked up at La Sirena, a big-box store similar to Walmart here in the states, I really liked the look of them, inside and out. They seem to be geared toward students, based on the pages inside, like this one:

Also from the DR, I particularly liked some of the pages inside this one, info from various subjects, all in Spanish, of course. Below are a couple of examples:

I saw this one at Half Price Books and really liked the look of it. At first glance, it looks like the inside of a geode, but the more I look at it, the more I see other things in the cover. I can imagine it being different kinds of liquid swirling together. Or even a nebula up close. It’s like a Rorschach test in a way—maybe what someone thinks it looks like says something about their personality.

I have to laugh when I realize that at the end of my previous notebook post, I said I may have even bought a single new notebook by the time I get to writing the next post about them. Because in fact, I’ve bought ten more since then. One is the last one from this post, and the other nine, I’ll split into two posts. Even though it’s laughable to say this by now, I really am going to try to reign myself in going forward.

Do you collect anything related to reading or writing? Feel free to share!

Book Review: Treasure Hunters

Treasure Hunters
Book #1
by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein
read by Brian Kennedy

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Children’s adventure

The Kidds are a family of treasure hunters. They live on a boat, traveling the world, recovering various kinds of items from shipwrecks. But after the separate but equally mysterious disappearances of both of their parents, the Kidd children are left on their own to deal with a band of pirates who want their treasure and local authorities who don’t want them to be left on their own. Then some clues surface that point at evidence to what really happened to their parents, and the adventure really begins.

I’m a bit torn on this book. The overall story was fun and adventurous and ends with a promise of more of the same. The main cast consists of 4 kids: the oldest is Tommy, then Storm, and twins Bick and Beck (short for Bickford and Rebecca). Bick is the narrator of the book, and Beck draws the illustrations along the way. I had to borrow the ebook to be able to see the illustrations, and I liked them, even one part when they were drawn by a different character.

However, I wrote more notes while listening, of things I wanted to remember for later, than I have for any book I’ve ever read. Not all of these notes were of issues I had with the story. For example, there was a gang of pirates that were basically surfer dudes, and the way they were voiced by the narrator gave that part of the story a major 3 Ninjas vibe, which I quite enjoyed. The narrator did a good job of sounding like a 12-year-old boy most of the time, but sounding like older characters when needed, too. Now and then, he seemed to put the emphasis in the wrong place, but overall, I liked the narrator.

What most of my notes boil down to are things I didn’t like about the way characters are presented or written. Tommy was probably my favorite of the Kidds. He’s uncomplicated and smarter than he seems. Storm is a fairly stereotypical, way-too-smart-to-be-believable character, even to the point of being overweight and socially awkward. It seems a little too much like the author(s) enjoys shaming fat people, not just because of this character (and it had to be pretty deliberate to make her this way, since it’s unlikely to me that someone living the way this family does would become so overweight), but because there are two other characters in the book that are described as ridiculously obese, and the narrator, who knows how much his sister hates to be teased about her weight, is not remotely kind in his descriptions of those characters.

Then we have Bick and Beck and their “twin tirades,” which are quick argument “squalls.” After a few of these, I realized that they’re really just a way for them to discuss opposing views, but they start out already angry. They mostly feel forced, and frankly, their parents should have put a stop to them a long time ago, insisting instead that they find a calmer and more healthy way to communicate. Also, all three of the kids were far too cavalier about the perceived deaths of their parents. They moved on so fast, it was as if they weren’t very attached to them.

This is the first of anything by James Patterson that I’ve read, but I have enjoyed books by Chris Grabenstein before. I’d really like to see where this story goes and hope that some of what I didn’t like about this book will be lessened in the future, as the series continues.

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Book Review: Behind the Lights

Behind the Lights
by Helen Smallbone

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Memoir

Helen Smallbone is the mother of seven children who are all adults now, three of which are well-known in Christian music—Rebecca St. James and brothers Joel and Luke of for KING & COUNTRY. In this book, she shares the story of her family, from moving from Australia to the US where everyone pitched in to keep them all afloat, to working together to put on Rebecca St. James’s shows once she got into the music industry, and to how for KING & COUNTRY got started.

One of the things I liked about this book was that way it was so conversational, like she’s telling her story in person. And she’s not afraid to talk about the mistakes made by her or anyone else in her family. I appreciate the way she ties every lesson learned into God and the Bible. Though very little of her incredible life is very relatable to me, I was still quite immersed in the book and was carried along with the ups and downs.

I’ve seen hints of at least Joel & Luke’s involvement in Rebecca St. James’s concerts, but the overall story of the entire family working at their oldest sister’s concerts and growing into their roles was the most interesting to me. It gives a lot of insight into what I’ve said since pretty much the first time I saw fK&C in concert—they put on some of the best live shows I’ve ever been to. And now I can see how their talent as performers had early roots. I’m really glad I read this book, and think that fans of Rebecca St. James and/or for KING & COUNTRY will enjoy it, as well as people interested in the behind the scenes of the Christian music industry (though I was fairly disappointed by some of what I read about that).

Thank you to Netgalley and K-LOVE Books for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Behind the Lights and for KING & COUNTRY
Publication date: April 12, 2022

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Book Review: The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair
The Chronicles of Narnia #4 (original order)
by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s classic fantasy

Not only is this the first book without any Pevensies, but it sure does delve into new depths (pun intended). Jill and Eustace are an interesting combination of characters—they’re the first to go to Narnia who aren’t related to each other in any way, not that being unrelated kept them from bickering. While parts of the story were quite predictable, I still enjoyed the way it played out.

Puddleglum, though, now he’s my kind of character. He expects the worst, yet never gives up. He has 100% faith in and devotion to Aslan, and I absolutely love his words and actions when facing the evil witch of this story. I really appreciate the way C.S. Lewis brings out truths about following God in the midst of these fantastical stories.

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March in Review

I read 9 books last month, a little lower than the first 2 months this year, but I’m not surprised. I was away for a week during March, and even after coming back, didn’t manage to get back to normal for almost another week. Though I did bring plenty to read while I was gone (and during the long travel times), it was difficult to focus on it like I’d expected. What’s sad, though, is that my average rating of books was really low—just above 3 stars, and that’s considering that 2 of the books were my own that I re-read, and, of course, I gave 5 stars to.

Here are the books I read in March:

Pithea by Kristi Drillien (5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (4 / 5)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (2 / 5)
Outcast by Kristi Drillien (5 / 5)
Journal 29 by Dimitris Chassapakis (2.5 / 5)
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (2 / 5)
The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket (2.5 / 5)
The Conference of the Birds by Ransom Riggs (3 / 5)
Islands and Enemies by Marianne Hering (3.5 / 5)

This list includes 1 ARC and 4 re-reads. I started 0 series, continued 3 series, and finished 0 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.

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.

Book Review: The Conference of the Birds

The Conference of the Birds
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #5
by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series.

Find V. Keep Noor safe. Avoid war between American peculiar clans. Of course, Jacob can’t do all of this alone, so it’s a good thing his friends are willing to overlook his stupidity and bring him back into the fold. But then the prophecy rears its ugly head, almost literally, and Jacob may not have what it takes to save the future of peculiardom.

This was my least favorite book of the series so far, though the story itself was good overall, about as good as the rest, to me. But I feel like either Ransom Riggs is getting more lazy or I’m just noticing it more. The most glaringly obvious is Noor. I was never a fan of Emma and Jacob’s relationship, so I don’t care that Jacob has a new romantic interest. However, Noor herself, and the development of their relationship, is like a rinse and repeat of Emma. Riggs seems to have no imagination for major female characters, especially those of the love-interest variety. And in this book, Jacob remarks that his relationship with Emma was “chaste,” to which I respond, “Compared to what?!” This is quite a ret-con of the earlier books, during which Jacob and Emma were definitely fairly physical. I really don’t understand the author’s thoughts in all of this.

This is not the only example, though, as a prophecy that was written in many different languages and cobbled together into English just happens to rhyme in English (and this happens again later with a shorter text). A loop that is locked just happens to let 2 people in, but keep all others out (nothing nefarious or planned, simply no explanation given). And the climax seems like it should be impossible (not saying more to avoid spoilers), but no explanation is given to make it more believable.

I think Riggs has done something decent here with this series, though I do wonder if he should have stopped at the first trilogy. Or perhaps made the second trilogy more of a removal from the first. A lot of people don’t really care for the villain in this 2nd half, and while it doesn’t really bother me, I get the frustration. I don’t know if he plans to continue with more books or not, but even though this book was less fun for me, I’m still looking forward to reading the culmination of this 3-book arc, and possibly of the entire series.

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Book Review: Islands and Enemies

Islands and Enemies
The Imagination Station #28
by Marianne Hering

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Historical children’s fiction, Christian

After cousins Beth and Patrick have an argument about loyalty and betrayal, Whit sends them on an adventure in the Imagination Station. They arrive in 1521 and become part of Magellan’s expedition to circumnavigate the globe for a few days and along the way learn a little something about loyalty and betrayal.

I like the idea of the Imagination Station so much more when it’s more like a holodeck adventure. Since it’s apparently meant to be actual time travel in this series, some of the things that happen are just a bit too unbelievable to me. Still, I like the way it brings moments of history to life for young readers, and this one was no exception. Some of the details shared by Beth (who may know more than makes sense for her age, even after having just done a report about one of Magellan’s ships) were interesting to learn about.

The time travel aspect and historical characters aside, the actual characters of Beth and Patrick took a hit in this story, in my opinion. While it certainly makes sense that they wouldn’t be perfect kids and would even sometimes get into fights with each other, Beth did not know when to keep her mouth shut, and Patrick was just a little jerk at times. Overall, though, it’s a fun look at historical accounts, written for kids, from a Christian viewpoint.

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

Find out more about Islands and Enemies
Publication date: April 5, 2022

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Book Review: The Carnivorous Carnival

The Carnivorous Carnival
A Series of Unfortunate Events #9
by Lemony Snicket
read by Tim Curry

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fiction

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the previous book in the series, The Hostile Hospital.

The three Baudelaire orphans continue to strike out on their own, arriving at the Caligari Carnival by stowing away in the trunk of Count Olaf’s car. Disguising themselves using Olaf’s own materials, can they keep their true identities secret? Can they uncover the truth behind the initials V.F.D. and whether or not one of their parents survived the fire?

There were some decent moments in this book, for example a humorous play on the phrase “deja vu.” It was interesting that Olaf and his acting troupe were out in the open this time, while the Baudelaires were the ones spying. It was also nice to finally get at least one answer to a series-long mystery. And there were some decent moments in this book, for example a humorous play on the phrase “deja vu.”

On the other hand, this book had whole new, over-the-top annoyances for me. The “freaks” whined constantly about their “deformities” which would have made more sense if one of them wasn’t simply ambidextrous. I’m sure it was some kind of humor that I just do not get, but the fact that both of Kevin’s legs are equally strong is something I really could have done without being reminded about all through the story. And the guests to the carnival were ridiculously blood-thirsty. But at least there’s Tim Curry. Slim consolation prize at this point.

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Book Review: The Flatshare

The Flatshare
by Beth O’Leary

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Romance

To solve their individual money problems, Tiffy and Leon enter into an agreement to share his 1-bedroom flat, sharing even the bed. Leon works nights and Tiffy days, so they will each have the flat to themselves (Leon plans to be completely gone on weekends). What starts as a simple note about leftovers turns into a friendship between these two people who have never met, yet know details about each other due to sharing a bedroom.

Oh, my goodness, I’m not quite sure how to start this review. When I decided to read this book, I knew the premise was pretty outlandish, but I was ready to suspend my disbelief for a fun, light story. That’s not really what this is, but that isn’t even the issue, really. For one thing, there’s just too much going on in this book. Besides the developing relationship between the two MCs and their everyday lives they have to deal with, Leon has a brother trying to appeal a conviction, a personal quest to help one of the patients at the hospice where he works, and a girlfriend. And Tiffy has a stalker ex-boyfriend and the trauma from emotion abuse he inflicted on her to deal with. Though I appreciated parts of how Tiffy’s storyline went—first identifying the abuse and then trying to move on from it—I think the author didn’t really have room to treat something that serious as well as one would hope to.

Several of the pet peeves I’ve recently begun to identify in fiction reared their ugly heads in this story. The main one is when someone can mouth an entire sentence, and it’s perfectly understood by whoever they’re mouthing it too. Honestly, how easy is it, really, to understand if someone mouths more than “thank you” or “I love you”? And this happened at least 2-3 times. Another is the amazing ability a character has to know exactly what someone else is thinking, simply based on micro expressions on their face. We’re not talking two people who’ve known each other since childhood, but work friends. Both of these things, to me, are just lazy writing. And don’t even get me started on the fact that Leon is in a fairly serious-seeming relationship at the beginning of this book. I have never cared for that kind of scenario in romance.

Now for my last major gripe (and a warning to those who don’t like a lot of physical contact in books they read): The descriptions in this book, while not graphic by most standards, went way too far for my preference more than once. Besides, to me, a relationship does not need lots of physical interaction to be romantic. In fact, I prefer as little of it as possible, because then the author has to make sure that there is romance and chemistry in other ways, which are much more impactful, in my opinion. Nothing spoils a nicely budding romance in any medium of fiction for me than the couple jumping into bed as soon as they feel that it’s socially acceptable.

In the end, if only one of the side plots had been focused on, I might have enjoyed the overall story more, though it would still have been far from a 5-star read for me. I, personally, would not recommend this book to anyone, and I think this book effectively ends my desire to ever read a contemporary romance again.

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Notebook Collection, part 11

It’s been over a year since I last posted about most recently acquired notebooks for my collection. However, that’s not because I haven’t gained any; I’ve simply put off posting about them. Nine new notebooks since the last post isn’t too bad for over a year, but it’s definitely time to start sharing them.

Past posts about the collection I have so far: Post #1  |  Post #2  |  Post #3  |  Post #4  |  Post #5  |  Post #6  |  Post #7  |  Post #8  |  Post #9 | Post #10

There are only a few thrift stores that my husband and I frequent where I even bother to look to see what kind of notebooks are there, since used notebooks have obvious issues. However, I did find this on a shelf at one store. I’m a little disappointed in myself that it took me a (fairly long) moment to recognize what it was, but having watched Annie a lot in my life, I snatched it up quickly once I did. Other than a layer of the cover being ripped off across the top where it looks like someone might have ripped off a sticker (seriously, why do retailers put stickers directly on books and notebooks?!), it’s in really good shape.

Because Meijer has surprised me several times by having notebooks that I really like, my husband now insists I check out that aisle every time we go. That’s where I found this notebook, which looks better in person than it does in the picture, with silver outlines throughout the artwork and some texture as well. Plus, purple is my favorite color.

One of many notebooks that my husband’s brought home for me, this was an unusual one. He found it at Walgreens in the post-Valentine’s Day section. He probably wasn’t sure how much I’d like it but knew I always like a good deal on a notebook. I also do think it’s cute, though; the decal on the front is like an iron-on badge.

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. I think I found it at Walmart and simply liked the cover.

These days, it’s not very often that I buy a notebook with a specific purpose for it in mind. However, when my husband and I volunteered to take over the planning of our church’s VBS program in the near future, I quickly realized a dedicated notebook would be helpful. The logical side of me tried to find a notebook I already own that would work for the situation, but none quite fit. So when we went to a bargain store that I’ve bought notebooks at before, one that I knew often has notebooks with Bible verses on it, I found one that seemed perfect.

I’ll save the rest of my new notebooks for another post. I may even have another one by the time I write it up, since I can’t seem to help myself.

Do you collect anything related to reading or writing? Feel free to share!