Wednesday 30 November 2022

Room One A Mystery or Two - Andrew Clements

Room One A Mystery or Two 
Andrew Clements
ISBN 9780689866876
eISBN 9781442462250

Six years ago, I discovered the works of Andrew Clements. I was instantly hooked and have now read 20 books by him. Many consider him the ‘master of school stories’, and I would agree. I have a dual form of dyslexia and did not learn to read until after grade 7. So I never read ‘school stories’ when I was young. That combined with having my own school aged children has instilled a great appreciation for the genre and specifically for the works of Andrew Clements. Clements passed away in 2019 his last novel was The Friendship War, which is an excellent volume. Around the time I discovered Clements works I also encountered Chris d’Lacey both write amazing stories for children, but they are also stories that any of us can learn from. Back then I set the goal of reading all of their works, but as my own children have grown these books had slid by the way side. I have now returned to them yet again. This story has inspired me to recommit to that goal.

I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up. I grabbed it based on the author and title alone. The cover grabbed my interest as well. It was an interesting read and one of my favorites of all his books I have read. It is an excellent read. The description of the book states:

“Ted Hammond learns that in a very small town, there's no such thing as an isolated event. And the solution of one mystery is often the beginning of another.

Ted Hammond loves a good mystery, and in the spring of his fifth-grade year, he's working on a big one. How can his school in the little town of Plattsford stay open next year if there are going to be only five students? Out here on the Great Plains in western Nebraska, everyone understands that if you lose the school, you lose the town.

     But the mystery that has Ted's full attention at the moment is about that face, the face he sees in the upper window of the Andersons' house as he rides past on his paper route. The Andersons moved away two years ago, and their old farmhouse is empty, boarded up tight. At least it's supposed to be.

     A shrinking school in a dying town. A face in the window of an empty house. At first these facts don't seem to be related. But...”

Ted is a good kid, and he is trying to do the right thing. The importance and weight of promises plans a key role in this story. For example:

“Ted had reached the kitchen porch. He pushed all the fears out of his mind and pulled himself back to reality. Because whatever else was going on at this house, he’d made a promise. He had promised a girl that he’d bring her some food. And he was going to keep that promise.”

“Ted thought, I can’t lie to Mrs. Mitchell. But I promised I wouldn’t tell. I promised. I have to keep my promise.
And in the stress of the moment, with the dusty tennis racket in mid-swing, Ted saw what a powerful grip a promise can have.
And not just on him. A promise can grab hold of anyone.
Even a teacher.”

“She reached out quickly and took both his hands in hers, and when he tried to pull away, she held on. “Ted, listen to me. I’m so sorry. But you have to hear this. I started feeling like I had to do something last night. Even though I promised you I wouldn’t tell anyone. But I wanted to talk to you first. So I didn’t do anything, and I didn’t tell anyone. Not even my husband.””

It is also the story of a town on the verge of collapse rising to the challenge to help strangers in need. It was very interesting watching Ted as he worked through the questions, concerns and desire to help and do the right thing. He soon realizes he cant do it all on his own so he comes up with a plan to get help to provide help.

This is another excellent offering from the pen of Andrew Clements, it is a great Middle Grade read. A fantastic book for young readers, and for those of us who just love a great story!

Books by Andrew Clements:
Bird Adalbert
Noah and the Ark and the Animals
Santa's Secret Helper
Temple Cat
Mother Earth's Counting Book
Billy and the Bad Teacher
Who Owns the Cow
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers
(Adapter)Philipp's Birthday Book
Riff's BeBop Book
Real Monsters Go for the Mold
Things That Go EEK on Halloween
Real Monsters Stage Fright
Music Time, Any Time
Double Trouble in Walla Walla
Gromble's Haunted Halloween
Hey Dad, Could I Borrow Your Hammer
The Landry News
Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play
The Mouse Family
The Janitor's Boy
Circus Family Dog
The Christmas Kitten
The School Story
Things Not Seen 
The Jacket 
A Week in the Woods
Slippers at Home
Naptime for Slippers
The Report Card
The Last Holiday Concert
Slippers at School
Slippers Loves to Run
A Million Is a Lot of Dots
Lunch Money
Things Hoped For
Room One: A Mystery or Two
No Talking
Things That Are
Lost and Found
Extra Credit
About Average
The Map Trap
The Friendship War
The Losers Club

Pets to the Rescue Series
Ringo Saves the Day!
Brave Norman
Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends
Delores and the Big Fire

Jake Drake Series
Jake Drake Know-It-All
Jake Drake, Bully Buster
Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet
Jake Drake, Class Clown

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series
We the Children
Fear Itself
The Whites of Their Eyes
In Harm's Way
We Hold These Truths

Reading Program Books
Karen's Island
Three Wishes for Buster
Bill Picket: An American Original, Texas Style
Hurricane Andrew
Ham and Eggs for Jack
Life in the Desert
Desert Treasure
Inventors: Making Things Better, Steck-Vaughn
Milo's Great Invention

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Stick ‘Em Up Asking for a Little Help Redux

Stick ‘Em Up Asking for a Little Help Redux

I have had my website since 2000, and a blog since 2005. This blog originally started as an online archive for articles and reviews I was writing in newspapers and magazines that did not have an online presence. Early on my wife and I decided not to monetize the blog, because at that point I was getting about 90% of the books I was reviewing from publishers, marketing companies, or authors. From the beginning I created all the content, mostly reviews of books, with a smattering of technology and fitness reviews. But my blog is my hobby. I work full time in IT, but Catholicism and books are my passion.

Over a year ago I was Cancelled by Amazon, I had almost 5000 reviews removed from .ca and almost 3000 from .com and It was disheartening to say the least. My reviews went back to 1999 on amazon. Many of the reviews were the only review on a book. For a friend calls me ‘completionist’ in that when I discover authors I really enjoy I try and read everything they have written. 

I read and review across almost all genres. If you enjoy the content consider leaving a tip in the virtual tip jar.

So please donate a few dollars if you can, use the paypal button on the left sidebar on the desktop view or use this link.

And yes I copied the idea of this post, and part of the title from a much more famous Catholic author. And this is an update of a post from 2018. And as always thank you in advance, and thank you for being a reader.

Monday 28 November 2022

King Rat - Alex Smith - DCI Kett Crime Thrillers Book 11.0

King Rat
DCI Kett Crime Thrillers Book 11.0
ISBN 9781913877101

I had pre-ordered the eBook for this, so it dropped to my devices on release day. And I started reading it first thing that morning. I devoured this volume over 3 days. It was hard to put down. Now it was not as fast paced as some of the other Kett novels. And really not as violent or gruesome. The description of this instalment in the Kett saga is:

“When you find yourself in hell, it pays to be a Devil.

DCI Kett’s worst nightmares have finally come true, the mysterious group known as Hollenbeck have resurfaced. After being violently abducted, Kett wakes inside a labyrinthine warehouse with no apparent way out—a warehouse rigged with deadly traps.

And he’s not alone in here.

Forced to become a rat in a maze, Kett must use every skill he has if he wants to escape. But there is a far greater price to pay if he ever wants to see his family again.

On the outside, DI Porter, DC Savage and PC Aaron Duke face a race against time to locate Kett before it’s too late. But Hollenbeck are smart, and this case may prove too much even for the Extreme Crime Task Force.

Because Kett is in hell, and he’s about to come face to face with the greatest evil of them all...”

I started this book the day it released, and even though it was a very busy week at work I ripped through it in a few days. I could not put it down. All of the Kett books are dark, and somewhat disturbing British Crime Thrillers, but this one takes it to a completely different level. Kett has been taken, and his new team the Norfolk Constabulary’s Extreme Crime Task Force, are doing everything they can to find him. Kett wakes up in a maze, and while working his way through the maze he encounters others who were drugged and found themselves there as well. Billy is beside herself. And Kett realizes it is some sort of test or gauntlet. It is another great story an intense series. There are a few twists in this tale and somethings very much unexpected. 

If you have been fallowing the saga of DCI Kett this book is a must read. If you happen to be a fan of rough and tough action you will almost certainly enjoy this novel. And the other books in the series. This is the eleventh of the DCI Kett stories that I have read, the tenth novel, Kett has also made a brief appearance in The Harder They Fall, the first of the Softley Series of books. But back to this volume.

This one is much more of a procedural crime thriller, as they team works clues and tries to track down Kett. Norman Balls wants in on the investigation, and even takes Billy under his wing. And using skill, cunning and just a bit of luck Kett just might survive. Can they team put it all together in time? 

This is another dark and gritty crime thriller from the pen of Alex Smith. About the author we are informed that:

“Alex Smith wrote his first book when he was six. It wasn’t particularly good, but it did have some supernatural monsters in it. His latest books, the DCI Robert Kett thrillers, have monsters in it too, although these monsters are very human, and all the more terrifying for it. In between these two books he has published thirteen other novels for children and teenagers under his full name, Alexander Gordon Smith—including the number one bestselling series Escape From Furnace, which is loved by millions of readers worldwide and which is soon to become a motion picture. He lives in Norwich with his wife and three young daughters.”

My introduction to Smith’s works were The Furnace novels many years ago. I have not read everything he has published but much of it. And they are always edge of your seat thrillers. I still hope that someday he will finally release book 2 is the Softley Softley Series, but until then I am thankful for another read in this dark and disturbing series. For some the Kett stories will be the things of nightmares, for others a look at the underside of society. But no matter how you read them they are crime thrillers with a lot of action, great characters and often a lot of violence! And this one has several surprising twists!

Mystery Books as Alex Smith:

Softley Softley Series:
2.0 Hard Luck House

DCI Kett Series:
2.0 Bad Dog
3.0 Three Little Pigs

Books By Alexander Gordon Smith:
Escape from Furnace:

Death Sentence
Execution Epilogue - Short Story
The Night Children - Short Story

Fury Series:
The Fury
The Storm

The Inventors:
The Inventors
The Inventors And The City of Stolen Souls

1001 Questions and Answers
Inspired Creative Writing: 52 Brilliant Ideas from the Master Wordsmiths
The Solar System
Family Quiz
Writing Bestselling Children's Books: 52 Brilliant Ideas for Inspiring Young Readers

Sunday 27 November 2022

What is happening at Medjugorje - David Baldwin - Catholic Truth Society

What is happening at Medjugorje?
David Baldwin
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860821738
eISBN 9781784692797
CTS Booklet D657

This was the first volume I have read by David Baldwin that is not part of the Christian Shrines Series. Over the last few years, I have read over 300 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I have greatly enjoyed many of the books in the Christian Shrines Series, about half of which were by David. But I approached this volume with some trepidation. I have heard very mixed things about this site. I have heard first hand testimonies praising and criticizing these events.

The description of this volume is:

“What is happening there, and what the Church has said about it. This booklet charts the events at Medjugorje from 1981 to 2002, and the claims that apparitions of Our Lady have taken place there and continue to this day. It describes how the Church authorities have responded to such claims and developments over the years, and sets out the Church's position regarding claims of the supernatural, and the guidance offered concerning pilgrimages there. It describes a visit to Medjugorje itself, and addresses the variety of opinion surrounding this recent phenomenon in the Catholic Church.”

The chapters in the booklet are:

Apparitions, Visions, Dreams
The Church’s Position
Events: 1981 - 2002
Medjugorje Message
To Go, Or Not To Go?
Personal Pilgrimage And Fruits

This volume was first published in 2002 and the eBook edition was released in 2017. I highlighted several passages my first time through this volume. Some of them are:

“Medjugorje! To some, this very foreign name may mean nothing; to others, maybe a vague undefined notion of some mysterious happenings in a distant country - probably best avoided. To some others, who may be aware of what is being reported out of Medjugorje, emotions ranging from simple scepticism to active disbelief. To many others, a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, prompted by reported appearances over the past years in this little-known Balkan village. It is a name, however, that is gradually gaining prominence in the Catholic consciousness, not only for what it has brought - and continues to bring - but also for the questions, disquiet, and indeed confusion that has come with it”

“For it is here that Our Lady - Gospa in Croatian - has, since 1981, been reported as regularly ‘appearing in apparition’ to six local young people. These alleged ‘appearances’ have given rise to a constant stream of ‘messages’ which are passed and avidly read round the world, as well as to a declaration of ‘ten secrets’ to the ‘visionaries’ which will be revealed to the world within their life time.”

“To the Church itself, however, weighing the evidence of the tangible, visible fruits and the reported claims of supernatural elements, it is proving to be a test of caution and prudence in the face of some controversy. This process has been complicated by an unforeseen popular desire that the ‘apparitions’ be officially recognised and approved by the Church.”

“The Church’s current position, however, is quite clear: “On the basis of investigations so far it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations” (the Zadar Declaration of 1991). It does, however, leave the matter open to further investigation and assessment - after events at Medjugorje have clearly ceased.”

“Many of the apparitions reported from time to time from all over the world are more often disowned or ignored by the Church - usually for heretical content - at an early stage. But this particular event has been enduring for over twenty one years, and has had a profound effect - and continues to do so - on many people. It is against this rising interest over Medjugorje that an attempt to provide a popular, accurate and balanced account is given by this booklet. It does not presuppose, nor require, any former knowledge of Medjugorje. Its purpose is to explain the background to, and give a simple, unvarnished account of what is happening in Medjugorje, using authentic sources.”

“The booklet seeks neither to persuade nor dissuade, simply to inform.”

“There is no intention to contradict or undermine the position that the Church has adopted to date regarding Medjugorje, and this the reader is asked to bear in mind throughout the booklet. This particularly applies in the ‘Events’ and ‘Messages’ sections where a simple narrative style has been adopted to depict the reported details of the apparitions, messages and the so-called secrets.”

“In 1933 the parish priest and parishioners erected this 36 foot high, 15 ton reinforced concrete cross to “mark the 1900th anniversary of the Passion of Jesus”. All the building materials had to be lugged up this steep, stony hillside by hand, “old man and boy, youth and girl, they all competed to do as much as they could to realise this holy act” notes the parish chronicle. Embedded in the concrete of the cross is a relic of the True Cross. These stout efforts, and the resultant cross give, strong testament to a village’s fidelity to the Lord their God.”

“Of the six, described at the time as, “representative of the village, neither good or bad, just like every one else”, only three of them were close friends. Whilst these were acquainted with the other three, they had little else in common, and indeed their initial coming together to witness and pass on their extraordinary experience initially frightened and confused them. The age range between them was also wide, the four girls of the group were between seventeen and fifteen, and the two boys were sixteen and ten at the time.”

“Since the beginning, the apparitions continued on a daily basis to all the children, until December 1982. Between then and 1998, three of the visionaries had their apparitions reduced to one a year and on ‘special occasions’, as well as having been given the ten secrets, leaving only three who now experience daily apparitions, and who await the tenth secret. Added to the initial six visionaries in 1983 were two ten year old girls who started having, and still experience, locutions - reportedly hearing messages from Our Lady.”

“Once the ‘apparitions’ and related activities have ceased the challenge may be made even more demanding, when the limitations of human cognisance, in further painstaking investigation, aided by prayer and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, may have to re-address the events at Medjugorje and make further declarations if necessary.”

“Corporeal visions are therefore what can more commonly be termed as apparitions, literally ‘appearances’, from the Latin apparitio, meaning ‘attendance’. As described above, they are “a sensible manifestation of God, an angel, a saint or any resurrected soul to a living person (or persons) on earth” (Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion).”

“In investigating reported apparitions the Church applies much the same thorough and painstaking process applied for beatification and canonisation. It was Pope Benedict XIV who insisted in his Encyclical ‘De Beatificatione et Canonizatione Servorum Dei’ that, “No phenomenon is to be attributed to a supernatural power until all possible natural or diabolical explanation has been investigated and excluded”. After being passed on by the parish priest to his bishop as being worthy of further examination, the evaluation process next involves an initial and thorough examination by a formal Commission raised by the diocesan bishop.”

“On the basis of the investigations so far it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.”

“During the ten years leading up to the Zadar Declaration there were public, lengthy and at times heated debate over what was, or was not, going on at Medjugorje. A Commission of four members was set up by the Bishop of Mostar in January 1982 to examine the events in the parish of Medjugorje, with, unusually, himself as the leading member; it was enlarged at the beginning of 1984 to twenty people. The interim conclusions were that there was insufficient scientific documentation in support of reported healings, and that it disapproved of any organised pilgrimage to Medjugorje.”

“It should be noted that there is an emphasis that what is being said is urgent, and the faithful should heed this sense of urgency. The core message is a call to conversion, a conversion back to God.”

“To obtain the true and full meaning of this word we need to turn to the Catechism, which describes Conversion as, “interior repentance” which is “a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance towards the evil actions we have committed” (CCC 1431).”

“We are asked for monthly confession, with a clear explanation that it should not turn into a monthly habitual ritual, “Confession should give impulse to your faith. It should stimulate you and bring you closer to Jesus. If confession does not mean anything for you, really, you will be converted with real difficulty”.”

““Let the Holy Mass be your life”, is the unequivocal message regarding the fifth weapon of salvation, the Holy Eucharist. Vicka tells us that Our Lady sees the Mass as “the most important and most holy moment in our lives. We have to be prepared and pure to receive Jesus with a great respect. The Mass should be the centre of our lives”. The messages lament the fact that, “You do not celebrate the Eucharist as you should.””

“Hope, that the experience would help to strengthen my faith. Open-mindedness that my newly rediscovered and regenerated faith would sustain a non-judgemental approach until the evidence, one way or another, had been revealed and could be evaluated. As for that nagging scepticism, it would have to be actively confronted on a daily basis and weighed against the evidence, rather than conveniently buried and ignored.”

Those few quotes should give you a feel for this volume. But it is a little dated in that the information is 20 years old now. From reading this volume David Baldwin appears to be convinced of the validity of these appearances. I myself and still on the fence. And I appreciate that as a Catholic I do not have to accept them, or any of the apparitions. Though I do have personal devotion to a few of them. I understand that Pope Saint John Pail II and Pope Benedict XVI both had grave concerns about this site. But only time will tell. 

It is a good read. It did not really answer any of my concerns. But I greatly enjoyed Baldwin’s other volumes for the Catholic Truth Society so wanted to give it a read.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by David Baldwin:

Saturday 26 November 2022

Lone Star Jack - Diane Capri - Hunt For Reacher Book 15

Lone Star Jack
Hunt For Reacher Book 15 (18)
Diane Capri
August Books
eISBN 9781942633679 

This book is yet another great book in the Hunt for Jack Reacher Series. Over the last few years I have read all of the Jack Reacher stories and all of the Hunt for Jack Reacher stories as well. This will be the 50th. It is a good read. And the next in this series have already been announced. This is the tenth I have read since that initial binge read. First I read the 29 Jack Reacher Novels and short stories by Lee Child, and now Lee and Andrew Child. And then I read all the books in this series. This is the fifteenth novel in the Hunt for Reacher Series, and the eighteenth story featuring Otto. Otto still does not have a replacement partner on this assignment. She still has Gaspar in the wings helping out as much as he can. He is told to pull in a resources from his new organization to help again. The source book for this volume was Lee Child’s Echo Burning. That story is a one, and excellent source book. The description of this volume is:

"Impatient with FBI Special Agent Kim Otto’s lack of progress, her boss seeks to show her how it’s done.

Cooper drags Otto to Dallas where he sets a trap to lure Jack Reacher with three carrots: challenge, revenge, and pride.

When a full scale riot breaks out at the prominent politician’s funeral, Otto uncovers a Machiavellian plot to execute his political rival.

A plot Reacher unwittingly put in motion.

Ten years ago, in Lee Child’s Echo Burning, Reacher was recruited to kill a stranger. He refused the mission but teamed up with two women to expose stomach-churning mass slaughter.

Now, Otto and Michael Flint race to find the executioner who refuses to relinquish his ill-gotten legacy.

Filled with twists and turns to keep you breathless until the explosive finale, can Otto and Reacher work together to stop the heinous assassins before it’s too late?"

The cast of characters in this story is:

Kim Otto
Carlos Gaspar
Charles Cooper
Michael Flint
Kathryn Scarlett
Martin Weber
Carmen Greer
Alice Aaron
Bobby Greer
Rusty Greer
Cesar Baez
Pilar Inez Mendoza
Jack Reacher

FBI Special Agent Kim Otto is met by Cooper in her apartment giving her information and telling her they need to leave. They are headed to Huston Texas. As always the information Cooper shares is selective. But the big difference this time is he is going with her. Cooper is out in the field, and he has 2 agents for protection who are part of the Double Death Task Force. After a shooting at the funeral they are attending Otto is read into the case. Soon Michael Flint arrives at the safe house and has a lead for Otto to follow. The source of the lead is a surprise to Otto and will be to readers as well. Otta and Michael are headed to Echo County and the Red House. Things do not go as planned.

Currently the Child brothers are releasing about 1 Reacher novel a year, and Capri is publishing 2. This one released a week after the latest Reacher novel, No Plan B.. This story has a lot of action and a lower direct body count. It is another good story in an excellent series. As always it leaves you desperate for the next instalment in the series. Capri has done a wonderful job in leading us on the hunt for Jack Reacher. And with each offering we get to know both Otto and Reacher better.

Books by Diane Capri:
Hunt for Reacher Series:

1.0 Don’t Know Jack
1.1 Jack in a Box
1.2 Jack and Kill
2.0 Get Back Jack
2.5 Jack in the Green
3.0 Jack and Joe
4.0 Deep Cover Jack
5.0 Jack the Reaper
6.0 Black Jack
7.0 Ten Two Jack
8.0 Jack of Spades
9.0 Prepper Jack
10.0 Full Metal Jack
18.0 Jack on a Wire

Justice Series:
1.0 Due Justice
2.0 Twisted Justice
3.0 Secret Justice
4.0 Wasted Justice
5.0 Raw Justice
5.5 Mistaken Justice
6.0 Cold Justice
6.1 False Justice
6.2 Fair Justice
6.3 True Justice
7.0 Hunt for Justice
8.0 Night Justice

Jess Kimball Series:
0.5 Fatal Enemy
1.0 Fatal Distraction
2.0 Fatal Demand
3.0 Fatal Error
4.0 Fatal Fall
4.5 Fatal Edge
5.0 Fatal Game
6.0 Fatal Bond
6.5 Fatal Past
7.0 Fatal Dawn

Heir Hunter Series:
1.0 Blood Trials
2.0 Trace Evidence

Jordan Fox Mysteries:
False Truth Part One
False Truth Part Two
False Truth Part Three
False Truth Part Four
False Truth Part Five
False Truth Part Six
False Truth Part Seven
False Truth Part Eight
False Truth Part Nine
False Truth Part Ten
False Truth Part Eleven

The Park Hotel Mysteries Series:
1.0 Reservation with Death
2.0 Early Check Out
3.0 Room with a Clue
4.0 Late Arrival

Other Books:
Angel of Music