If You Find This ~ BRC

Here we are again! For this month’s Book Review Club, I have another middle grade novel to recommend, which is kind of weird. I hardly read any middle grade or YA, but lately that’s all I’ve been reviewing. What can I say?  I’ve discovered some good stuff!

May I present (um, review)… If You Find This by Matthew Baker!

If you, like me, are a fan of the 80’s classic The Goonies, then that just adds another layer of awesome to this book, because it is seriously The Goonies of this middle grade generation. I would LOVE to see this book get made into a movie. So. Much. Goodness.



You know I like to start with the covers, and this one has a lot going on. I deliberately attached a HUGE image so you could get the full effect. I love all the details: the house on the hill, the three boys, the background sketching (done by the author), the beam of the flashlight, the silhouettes of houses, and the man standing at the bottom…It all factors into the story!!

Okay, moving on.  From Amazon:

Mixing mystery and adventure in the tradition of Louis Sachar, Avi, and E.L. Konigsburg, If You Find This is the story of unlikely friendships, unexpected bravery and eleven-year-old Nicholas Funes’s quest to prove his grandfather’s treasure is real.

Nicholas is a math and music genius with no friends and a huge problem: His father has lost his job, and they’ll have to sell their house, which holds the only memory Nicholas has of his younger brother. Just in time, Nicholas’s senile grandfather arrives, filled with tales of priceless treasure he has hidden somewhere in town–but where?
With the help of misfit classmates, two grandfathers, a ghosthouse, hidden messages, séances, and an uncanny mind for numbers, Nicholas stages a nursing home breakout, tangles with high schoolers in smugglers’ tunnels, and gets swept up in a duel with the biggest bullies in the neighborhood. Will it be enough to find the treasure and save his house?

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? Well, that doesn’t even do it justice. Here’s a sample page that gives you an idea of how the author has incorporated Nicolas’s musical and mathematical mind.

Happy to the power of jamboree!! Best. Kiss. Ever!

Like The Goonies, this story is about a family poised to lose their house and a treasure hunt that will hopefully help them keep it.  But Nicolas has a bigger reason to want to keep his house than the kids in the movie.  When his baby brother died, they planted a tree in the backyard in remembrance, and that tree has become his brother in his mind.  He “talks” to his brother with his violin, and his brother talks back with the breeze.  If he leaves this house, he’s leaving his brother behind.

There’s kidnapping, secret caves, a decades-old shady past, and plenty of mystery and adventure, but there are also bigger themes: old age and death, bullying, loneliness, acceptance.  This book has a TON going on, but really and truly, it’s about loyalty, friendship, and the courage to do the right thing.  I loved it and cannot recommend it highly enough.  I can’t wait for more books by Matthew Baker.

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@Barrie Summy
Posted in book review club, Uncategorized on 05/06/2015 02:31 am | 6 Comments

The Falconer ~ BRC

Happy Spring! In Texas we’ve already had 80 degree weather–strawberry picking weather.  And I’ve already gone strawberry picking.  In fact, it’s probably around time for me to go again…  But I digress.  Let’s get to it.  On Tuesday there was a tweet in my feed about THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May being on sale for $1.99 (ebook).  I loved the cover and was intrigued by the storyline, so I bought it.  No regrets.  Well, maybe one little one.  But I’ll get to that.  As of the writing of this review, it is still on sale, so go grab it up!  Read on, and I’ll tell you why you should.

From Amazon:
Edinburgh, 1844. Beautiful Aileana Kameron only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. In fact, she’s spent the year since her mother died developing her ability to sense the presence of Sithichean, a faery race bent on slaughtering humans. She has a secret mission: to destroy the faery who murdered her mother. But when she learns she’s a Falconer, the last in a line of female warriors and the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity, her quest for revenge gets a whole lot more complicated. The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller blends romance and action with steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.

FalconercoverfinalOne year ago, Aileana was dreaming about balls, and dresses, and the man she might marry.  Then she saw her mother murdered by a faery.  Since then, she’s been training to fight and kill faeries who willfully murder every night in Edinburgh–training with a faery who has vowed never again to kill humans.  In her spare time, she invents new weapons to arm herself in the fight.  They incorporate arrows, fire, explosives…whatever it takes, and the inventions are seriously half the fun of this book.  Aileana is a fascinating character: driven, broken, self-possessed, cunning, guilt-ridden…and when we meet her, she’s already thoroughly entrenched in this unbelievable life.  There’s also a charming, funny little pixie living in her dressing room.

After all this is established, and it’s clear she’s settled into her crazy life, the hits start coming and don’t let up.  She discovers she’s a Falconer–the last of her kind–ideally suited to fight against the faeries and surprise! that the seal that has locked the faery population beneath Edinburgh is about to break and she’s the only one who can fix it.  Then there’s the pesky little problem of her father requiring her to marry.  And the fact that she’s falling in love with the faery who’s trained her…  Not to mention a whole bunch of other things that I won’t mention here, because they’re kind of spoilery.  Believe me, it’s intense.

I loved Aileana, but there were times I thought her language didn’t totally gel with my expectations for a young lady living in 1844 Edinburgh.  Still, that was a minor flaw.  The book did require a little suspension of belief–it read like an action/adventure movie might play out–but honestly, I didn’t care.  And then there was that ending.  Let’s just say that it was good, but it wasn’t nearly enough.  It’s a serious cliffhanger, and I don’t even know when the next book is coming out!!

So.  While I recommend this book–highly–I’d maybe suggest waiting to read it until number 2 is visible on the horizon.  I think it might be available in the UK, but I’m not sure when the US release date might be.  I’ll definitely be waiting.

Now click through on the typewriter for more reviews!

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@Barrie Summy
Posted in book review club on 03/31/2015 08:39 pm | 15 Comments

Vango ~ BRC

I came across this month’s Book Review Club pick while working in the library at younger son’s junior high. I don’t let myself linger too long reading the blurbs or staring at the covers of the books I’m processing, but this one caught my eye. It’s Vango by Timothee de Fombelle.  I’m also adding a mini review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, which at the time I wrote this review, was the number one selling book on Amazon.com!

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@Barrie Summy

9781406354010First Vango

From Amazon:

A breathless adventure from international award winner Timothée de Fombelle charts a desperate search for identity across the vast expanses of Europe.

In a world between wars, a young man on the cusp of taking priestly vows is suddenly made a fugitive. Fleeing the accusations of police who blame him for a murder, as well as more sinister forces with darker intentions, Vango attempts to trace the secrets of his shrouded past and prove his innocence before all is lost. As he crisscrosses the continent via train, boat, and even the Graf Zeppelin airship, his adventures take him from Parisian rooftops to Mediterranean islands to Scottish forests. A mysterious, unforgettable, and romantic protagonist, Vango tells a thrilling story sure to captivate lovers of daring escapades and subversive heroes.


So, what was it about this book that prompted me to go looking for it at my local library?  The color-blocked cover. The time period. The setting. And the mystery.

None of it disappointed.

There is always an urgency running through the stories set in Europe in the years between WWI and WWII, and this one was no exception.  But Vango’s mysterious life added a whole other layer.  The reader has no idea who he is or who’s chasing him, and the scary part is, Vango doesn’t know any more than we do.  He knows his name: Vango Romano, and he knows that he and a woman going only by ‘Mademoiselle,’ showed up on an island in the Mediterranean Sea when he was a little boy.  The rest of his past is a mystery that Mademoiselle refuses to speak of.

But he’s a climber and an adventurer.  He communes with birds, takes risks, makes friends easily, and charms everyone he meets.  But no one knows anything about him.  Which makes him slippery and elusive.  No one can even imagine the cagey cleverness of this boy of fifteen.

But as Vango criss-crosses Europe to elude capture by the police, we gradually begin to get a better picture of his past.  But not a clear one by any means.  I finished the book, but I still feel as if I’m almost completely in the dark.  I know the main characters, but I also don’t.  And very little was resolved in the end–in fact, I’m not sure whether a single storyline thread was completely tied up.  But naturally this has me avidly curious about the next book in the series, Vango: A Prince Without a Kingdom.  Luckily, it comes out this week.

I would recommend this book for readers curious about the looming threat of Hitler in 1930’s Europe, for those loving a rip-roaring adventure, or an epic saga.  Or anyone who likes their heroes wrapped in a little mystery.  But they’ll need patience, and lots of it.


1607747308.01.LZZZZZZZHaving recently come to the conclusion that I need to declutter my house and my life, I picked up Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:  The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  I was hoping for a miracle, and judging by the number of copies of this book being sold, I’m not the only one.

From Amazon:

This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). 

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

Okay, so I’m about halfway through this book, and I feel like it could have been written as a pamphlet.  The author has made several good points that I will definitely be taking into consideration when I begin my decluttering, but much of this tiny book is anecdotes from her childhood or past clients.  And much of it doesn’t really mesh with my personal way of thinking.  For example, several pages are devoted to explaining how wrong it is to store socks paired up with their tops folded over.  I’ve been using this very method–with no issues–since I was a kid.  The author suggests that this method doesn’t allow the socks to rest and instead, they should be treated with more care and consideration after the hard work they’ve undergone between your foot and shoe. Ahem.

She is the only author I’ve seen who thanks her house and personal possessions on the acknowledgement page of her book.

That said, she also recommends pulling out your belongings by category (clothes, books, mementoes, etc.) to sort through them.  She insists that each item be held individually so that you can make an assessment as to whether or not it sparks joy and is something you should keep.  I can see how this sort of emotional involvement could be a particularly effective way to settle on the items to keep and the items to give away.  On the other hand…. Books, she says, “are essentially paper–sheets of paper printed with letters and bound together.”  She does not advocate keeping many books–she likes to keep her collection of books to about thirty. (!!)  We clearly do not see eye to eye.

So while I will read to the end and hope to snag a few more pearls of de-cluttering wisdom, I don’t think this book will make a magical difference for me.  And the way things are going, I’d guess that had I purchased a copy rather than finding it in my local library, I would have been disappointed in the investment.  Particularly as her guidelines suggest that I would subsequently “discard” it.




Posted in book review club, Uncategorized on 03/04/2015 05:00 am | 14 Comments