The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30, Tiffany Aching #1)

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30; Tiffany Aching, #1)The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Chalk is a place of sheep and shepherds but never a witch was known to be there, however that might have been incorrect. Terry Pratchett’s 30th Discworld novel, The Wee Free Men, is the second time he’s written for young adults but his writing and humor are top notch as well follow a nine-year witch Tiffany Aching going up against the Queen of Elves with only a horde of six-inch blue little men.

Tiffany Aching finds her family farm being invaded by monsters from dreams as well as a horde of little blue men, the titular Wee Free Men. Tiffany is very smart for her age and sees things as they are just like her grandmother, so when strange things pop up she uses an iron pan to beat them back. Although she later figures out that her grandmother was a witch, Tiffany has her first encounter with one in the form of Ms. Lick who tells her to be careful but not to tackle the problem on her own but when her brother is kidnapped by the Fairie Queen, Tiffany knows she’s going to need help while not sounding desperate. Tiffany’s help comes to her when the local clan of the Wee Free Men shows up looking for the new “hag ol’ the hills” because of the invasion of the Queen. Tiffany and the Wee Free Men invade ‘Fairyland’ and manage to return with her brother, a feat that Granny Weatherwax finds impressive for someone so young and untrained.

The Wee Free Men features Tiffany as the only point-of-view character, save from a narrator, which keeps the book fairly orderly when reading as well as being in line for a book for younger readers. The story itself is somewhat familiar for long time Discworld fans with the antagonist being the Queen of the Elves invading, but Pratchett changes things up with the use of dreams and the conflict as seen from a nine-year old. The cameo appearance of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg at the end, sets up further adventures of Tiffany and connects her subseries with the Witches subseries with the hopes of seeing favorite characters in future books.

The second young adult and first Tiffany subseries book of the Discworld canon is a fantastic book; The Wee Free Men gives someone new for long time fans while introducing older characters for younger new readers. While it’s intended for a younger audience, older fans will appreciate Pratchett’s humorous fantasy writing with his twists and turns.

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Prairie Boy: An Artist Tells of His Growing-Up Days on the Canadian Prairies

Prairie Boy: An Artist Tells of His Growing-Up Days on the Canadian PrairiesPrairie Boy: An Artist Tells of His Growing-Up Days on the Canadian Prairies by Harry Baerg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The life on the Canadian prairie a hundred years ago was one of adventure and hard work for a boy growing up, even without school to worry about. In Prairie Boy by artist -author Harry Baerg writes about events over 9 years of his life on and around his family farm in central Saskatchewan in an engaging autobiography geared towards young adults.

Beginning with purchase of his family’s farm outside the town of Waldheim in 1917 when he was 8, Baerg writes about many features of life over the next 9 years until his family left for British Columbia. As an avid nature writer, Baerg’s descriptions of the wildlife around his farm and his family’s farm animals are very well done as well as chores surrounding the latter. His descriptive illustrations, in both words and images, of various activities brought to life how farmers a century ago dealt with daily life without the technological developments that would occur over the course of the rest of the century. Baerg spends time on both his schooling and how modern inventions slowly started coming into town and into their family’s life, making one realize that even the faintest resemblance to our world today was barely visible a century ago.

Coming in under 130 pages, Prairie Boy is a very quick read but very informative and entertaining. Although intended for a young adult audience, Harry Baerg’s autobiography of his time growing up is something adults looking for an relaxing read would find interesting.

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The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld #28)

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld, #28)The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The piped piper comes to a town in Uberwald, but finds that he’s late to the show that features cats, rats, and stupid-looking kids talking to one another. The twenty-eighth and first young adult entry of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents finds the residents—new and old, human and nonhuman—town of Bad Blintz figuring out the fine line between real life and a story. The aim to bring the same Pratchett humor that adults love to a younger audience is on target.

A mixed troupe of “rat piper” con-artists arrive just outside the town of Bad Blintz lead by a streetwise tomcat, who a clan of talking rats and a stupid-looking kid named Keith on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. But everyone is getting fed up with just going around and doing the same old thing, the rats want to find a home to build their society and the kid would like to play more music. Maurice is just interest in money and hiding the guilty for how he gained the ability to speak, but he found more than he’s bargaining for in Bad Blintz because something weird is going on even his talkative rat associate find disturbing. Soon the troupe find out that they have stumbled into a long running conspiratorial plan hatched from a surprising source.

As always, Pratchett connects his humor around a well-known fairy tale or story then completely turns it on its head when the same circumstances happen on Discworld even as the characters fight their own preconceptions when comparing “stories” to “real life”. The fact that he ably brought his unique style to a young adult market without losing any of the punch from the jokes makes this a very good book. Although some of the sections of the book were somewhat familiar to a long-time Pratchett reader does take a little away from the book, it doesn’t necessarily ruin the book for first time readers.

Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld foray into the young adult genre is classic Pratchett through targeted at a younger audience. I found it as funny as the rest of his series, but some of the plot points were simpler than his usual work for obvious reasons. However this minor fact doesn’t ruin a very good book.

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A Bold One for God

A Bold One For GodA Bold One For God by Charles G. Edwards

My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

Although he did not begin the Reformation in Scotland, John Knox has become its most identifiable proponent not only in the almost 450 years since his death but also during the last 25 years of his life. In A Bold One for God, Charles G. Edwards writes a brief 160 page biography of “a not-so-well-known reformer” that served not only God but his nation as well.

Edwards’ biography of Knox begins in his early 30s after his conversion to Protestantism and his interactions with martyr George Wishart and how the influential preacher told him to remain a tutor to his pupils until God needed him. In the reaction after Wishart’s execution, Knox was asked to preach by Wishart’s followers to lead their congregation after they had assassinated the Cardinal of St. Andrews. His accepts and his powerful preaching began his rise as a man of note in the Reformation movement in Scotland while also resulting in his imprisonment after the movement is crushed for a time. Over the course of the next 12 years, Knox serves as a galley slave before living in exile in England then Geneva and Frankfurt then back to Geneva with a brief visit to Scotland in-between. In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland permanently and became a not only the leading Protestant preacher in the nation but also one with significant political power as he contended with the queen regent Mary of Guise then her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, and then under the regents of the young James VI.

In the synopsis above, I have hardly scratched the surface of John Knox’s life and career. Unfortunately Charles Edwards did the same in this short biography as well. Although his intended audience is easy identifiable for young adults through his writing style and larger font, Edwards doesn’t treat his audience with respect by crediting them with any intelligence and made his subject less than what he was. Through reconstructed conversations and paraphrasing of others, Edwards endeavored to give Knox’s life more depth but only made the man appear simple and artificial to the reader which seemed to indicate a condescending attitude towards his readers.

While Edwards does give an accurate picture of the chronology and historical background of John Knox’s life that does not make up for the lack of depth and unintended sterilization of his subject. The lack of discussion of Knox’s first 30 years of life and the, most likely unintentional, patronizing attitude towards his readers severely undercuts the worth of A Bold One for God.

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Lighter of Gospel Fires: The Story of J.N. Loughborough

Lighter of Gospel FiresLighter of Gospel Fires by Ella M. Robinson

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The long life of Seventh-day Adventist preacher John N. Loughborough saw many in the world and in the development of the Adventist movement from William Miller to the Seventh-day Adventist church. In Lighter of Gospel Fires: The Story of J.N. Loughborough, Ella M. Robinson recounts the service of one of the Seventh-day Adventist church’s first ordained ministers and pioneer into many fields of ministry not only through his owns words but her interactions with him when she was a young girl growing up.

Born in upstate New York, John N. Loughborough was the son of a carpenter and deacon of the local church and throughout his early life was always around hard work and Christian fellowship. Soon after losing his father at age seven Loughborough went to live with his grandfather and the family joined the Adventist movement started by William Miller soon afterwards. Even before the Great Disappointment Loughborough learned that some ministers would not tolerate Biblical beliefs contradicting human traditions. Soon after beginning his own life-long service of preaching at age seventeen, Loughborough encountered many of these worldly ministers as well as the challenges and triumphs that came preaching the word. Within several years of beginning his preaching career, Loughborough was convinced of the Seventh-day Sabbath and soon encountered other Sabbath-keepers within the Adventist movement, James and Ellen White. Along with the White, John Andrews, and many other church pioneers, Loughborough and his family would cross the United States to bring the ‘midnight cry’ to those that hadn’t heard it. But Loughborough wouldn’t find the fruits of his efforts only in the immediate locations where he preached, but across the country and then around the world.

The nearly 170 pages of text, albeit in large font, and the composition quickly denote this book for teen as well as relating the time when it was first published over 50 years ago. Although primarily a biography of J.N. Loughborough, Robinson related many side incidents surrounding him that added to the overall book. Robinson also illustrated the development of the Seventh-day Adventist church through Loughborough’s own career not only to show his importance but also how all the pioneers of that time sacrificed and contributed to building up of the church.

Lighter of Gospel Fires is an informative, yet short biography of church pioneer J.N. Loughborough that is an easy read for teens who are not interested in having to read a dry book. Ella M. Robinson not only relates the life of the longtime Adventist preacher, but also looks into how the Seventh-day Adventist church had developed by the time of Loughborough’s death. Although not perfect, this book is a nice Sabbath read that I would have loved reading when I was a teen.

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In Search of the Golden Rainbow

In Search of the Golden Rainbow: A Once In a Lifetime AdventureIn Search of the Golden Rainbow: A Once In a Lifetime Adventure by Charles Armistead

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The allure of lost treasure fascinates everyone, yet no many try to actually find it. Charles Armistead retells his time looking for such In Search of the Golden Rainbow with his father, great-uncle, and several business partners. Yet while searching for gold, Armistead learns lessons about life and death.

Covering a period of nine months, Armistead describes his time while searching for a lost Mexican mine in the Oregon Mountains of New Mexico. Over the course of 96 pages, Armistead relates many adventures and mishaps throughout in a smooth transition from one to another. Yet because of nearly 40 years between the events and the writing only the incidents that made the biggest impression and the details both Armistead and his father could agree on were included in the book. Although the book is clearly written for a teenage audience, its short length is a major downside and something I didn’t realize way back when my mother read me this book when I was a child. While the book does have a religious message as well, Armistead doesn’t “preach” throughout it instead only bring in a religious message into the book at an appropriate connection to the events he is retelling.

In Search of the Golden Rainbow is over 35 years old, yet it is still an enjoyable read. Armistead’s writing style provides a quick and easy read of his time looking for lost gold while also finding some spiritual truths. If I had decided when I was a teen to read this book for myself instead of relying on my faulty childhood memories, I would have enjoyed it not only for the adventure but also that Armistead relayed spiritual lessons in a conversational way and not highhandedly.

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Mockingjay (THG #3)

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The nation of Panem collapses into a state of civil war and both sides are looking towards for the appearance of the Mockingjay. The final installment of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy finds Katniss Everdeen contemplating her role in the fight against the Capitol along with coming to terms with everything that has been going on her life the last two years.

The book begins with Katniss in the ashen rubble of her home District 12 before returning to the underground stronghold of the once thought to be destroyed District 13 where she’s amongst a political struggle for her face on the rebellion. But it is only after seeing a Capitol controlled Peeta that Katniss begins promoting the rebel cause. Over the course of the book, Katniss is mentally and physically tested by not only the conditions but also propaganda moves by President Snow via Peeta until the rebellion rescues him, only for everyone to find out he is not himself. Through the rest of the book, Katniss’ battles both military and political forces in her personal mission to end the war and Snow so those she loves can live in peace. Yet victory comes at such a high cost that it truly breaks Katniss more than the Hunger Games or anything else.

Given where the end of the previous book ended, Mockingjay has to start slowly before getting into a flow similar to the first book of the trilogy. In fact, Mockingjay is truly the better follow up to The Hunger Games than Catching Fire as Katniss truly comes to terms with everything she has previously and currently going through, so much so that it seems that she is having a slow motion mental breakdown before hitting rock bottom.

In the final chapter of The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins gives a satisfying and well-written conclusion to Katniss’ story. If not for the slow start, Mockingjay would be on the same level as the first book. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Hunger Games then make it through Catching Fire to see why >Mockingjay is so fantastic.

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