March 25, 2012

Review: Adventurers Wanted: Slathbogs Gold

I had been wanting to read this book for a couple of years as it looked intriguing.  In the meantime two sequels came out, so I finally decided to read it.  The story follows 15-year-old Alex Taylor on as he becomes an adventurer in a magical world after curiosity leads him to inquire about a recruiting sign for adventurers in a shop window on an unusually deserted street.  We meet his fellow adventurers (including the obligatory dwarves & elves) and learn about the adventure (ridding the kingdom of a dragon and claiming his hoard) they are to complete along with the rewards and code of adventuring.  Along the way, Alex discovers much about his companions, the magical world he is visiting and his own abilities and potential.

This book is written for a much younger audience than I had expected, more for elementary school ages.  Although it is definitely several steps up from a beginning chapter book and includes danger, peril and fighting, there is an absence of any intensely scariness on the order of Harry Potter or Fablehaven.  This makes it a perfect read-a-loud story for younger children introducing them to elements of classic magical quest stories, including trolls, codes of honor, oracles and visits to a dwarf kingdom and an elf forest along the way.  I felt the climatic battle with the dragon could have used a little more detail and complexity, but overall I enjoyed the story very much once I got used to the tone of cheerful positivity.  The story was a fast, run read, and I look forward to finally reading the sequels as well.

Click here to read more about Slathbog's Gold, here for Horn of Moran (book 2) and here for Albrek's Tomb (book 3).

March 3, 2012

Christmas Jar Report Christmas 2011

This account comes from the winner of the Beehive Bookstore Christmas Jar in December 2011.  Just after Christmas, she moved out of state so we are glad she finally found a few minutes to tell us about her experience giving away our store's Christmas Jar--the total of which was $133.85 thanks to all of our generous customers who contributed!

The Christmas Jar
A couple of years ago as it was getting close to Christmas I casually asked someone at church if they were all ready for Christmas ~ she replied “We aren’t having much of a Christmas this year”. I could see that her response had caught her off guard. She really didn’t want anyone to know that their family was struggling that year.

Her response haunted me for the next few days as the Spirit whispered to me that I needed to do something for them. Not many years before I had been where they were. The Lord had blessed me with a wonderful job and now I had the ability to help them.

I enlisted a very close friend to help me deliver the presents, gift cards and cash that I’d put together for her family. When I picked her up, her husband said to her ~ “Don’t forget to go by the bank and “make the deposit” on your way.” We dropped by the bank on the way and when she came back to the car she had a $250 dollar deposit to add to the “Christmas Jar.”

At Christmas time a year later my friend's father was critically ill & her son (Chris) came all the way from Maine to California to see his Grandfather, even though money was very tight for him and he was getting married in less than a month.

While Chris was in California I won the “Christmas Jar” at the Beehive Bookstore. I wondered who I should give it to ~ then the Spirit whispered to me “give the jar to Chris and his fiancĂ©, along with a copy of the book “The Christmas Jar.” Tell him the story of our “Christmas Jar” gift the year before. Along with the Jar& book I included a little note, telling him the wonderful experience his mother and I had shared the year before and that I hoped he & his wife could carry on the wonderful tradition of “The Christmas Jar” in their new family.

March 1, 2012

Review: Banana Split by Josi Kilpack

There seems to be a lot of new fiction from LDS publishers now arriving in the store, many of them from familiar and favorite authors about familiar characters.  The store sometimes receives advance copies of books.  Unfortunately, I often time do not have time to read them all, but when we got our advance copy of Banana Split, I decided I needed to just indulge myself and read it right away.

Banana Split is the latest in a series of culinary mysteries by Josi Kilpack featuring Sadie Hofmiller who loves to cook.  Each story can be read alone, but I have really enjoyed reading them in order because I feel the development of the characters has really grown with each book.  In the first couple of books, I really enjoyed the mystery/puzzle to be solved which oft took very surprising twists and turns along with the really fun recipes.  However, I often felt the characters were not very deeply explored and did not feel like I could relate to Sadie.  However, as the series has progressed, Sadie's character has also become more complex with fascinating layers that are weaved into the story and who-dunnit plots making for more satisfying reading.  Pumpkin Roll came out last fall, and I have talked to many who feel it was the best to that point.  I think Banana Split is a continuation of the high level reached in Pumpkin Roll and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Sadie is in Hawaii house-sitting a friend's condo complex while trying to come to terms with the traumas experienced a few months earlier in Boston (the climax of Pumpkin Roll).  Her anxiety and depression have trapped her into a very un-Sadie-like existence where she hardly leaves the condo.  As things seem to go for Sadie, she discovers a body, which trauma causes her finally seek professional help for her emotional issues.  Although she is trying to come out of the hole into which she has fallen, she has no interest in knowing anything more about the victim who is generally believed to have died from a drug overdose.  However, when Charlie, the 11-year-old son of the victim approaches Sadie for answers about his mother, Sadie's reluctant attempts to help him find closure not only helps her begin to emerge from her depression but also helps her find out she is stronger than she thinks she is when she is trying to help someone she has grown to care about.  
I felt that the mystery, subplots, pacing and characterizations all were well-done, meaning I was drawn into the story which kept me thinking, caring and guessing all along the way to a satisfying conclusion.  Oh, and the recipes really looked delicious.  I can't say I've tried them out as when I could be cooking, I'd rather be reading.  To check out Banana Split on our website, click here.