Book Review: The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

Title: The Secret of Platform 13
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Genre: Fantasy & Magic
Amazon rating: 4.3 stars

Secret of Platform 13A forgotten door on an abandoned railway platform is the entrance to a magical kingdom–an island where humans live happily with feys, mermaids, ogres, and other wonderful creatures. Carefully hidden from the world, the Island is only accessible when the door opens for nine days every nine years. A lot can go wrong in nine days. When the beastly Mrs. Trottle kidnaps the prince of the Island, it’s up to a strange band of rescuers to save him. But can an ogre, a hag, a wizard, and a fey really troop around London unnoticed?

Reviewed by: Stephanie Ayers

The Review:

I fell in love with this story from the very first paragraph. The writing is clever, witty, and smooth. Ms. Ibbotson has a way with words that plants little pictures in your head. The characters come to life with vivid descriptions. The story clips along at the perfect pace. The action remains steady while she skillfully weaves back story in. My only complaint is that the ending feels rushed. The very last chapter is an excellent and different way of closing out a book. I enjoyed this very much despite it being a YA story.

Excellent and different. #amreading #bookreview @theauthorSAM #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: Service Goat by Piers Anthony

Title: Service Goat
Author: Piers Anthony
Genre: Sci-Fi
Amazon rating: 3.7 stars

Service GoatOrphaned and blind seven-year-old Callie has a service animal – a goat with extraordinary powers.
Ben Hemoth is a down-on-his luck news reporter facing prison. Needing to save his job and his reputation, he teams up with Venus, a young seductress caught up with a teenage drug gang.

When a mysterious letter arrives detailing a top-secret investigative operation, Ben and Venus think they’ve found their chance for redemption. The mission? Investigate a goat.

In exchange for an extravagant paycheck, Ben and Venus must piece together the wild rumors swirling around Callie, her supernatural goat, and a possible UFO visit.

Piers Anthony’s Service Goat is an extraordinary tale rich with adventure, extraterrestrial visitors, secrecy, dangerous governmental operations, and the classic hints of mischief that readers have come to expect and love from the New York Times bestselling author of the Xanth series.

Reviewed by: David Wiley

The Review:

This is a hard book to review. I read and enjoyed a decent number of his Xanth novels in my younger years, which was the reason why I agreed to read this book. Anthony’s humor and style are definitely on display in this novella, starting with the idea of using a goat as a service animal. There are some very compelling reasons to read this story, in spite of its few flaws.

Alien invasion stories are no longer the hip thing to write about, which is what makes this entry a refreshing tale. It is no longer being oversaturated by anyone and everyone, which makes it an enjoyable plot to explore once again. In this case the invaders are aliens that look like goats, and this is nothing more than an initial scouting party looking to find a planet where they could live in relative peace and harmony. This goat, Nanny, is the first to land and finds Callie, a young girl who just lost her parent and her eyes in a car crash. Touching the goat helps her to forget the pain, as well as allows her to see through the goat’s eyes. What ensues is a large conspiracy where those who interact with the goat are brought in on the goat’s side and, in all cases, become part of a conspiracy of silence.

On the other side is detective Ben Hemoth and his girlfriend, Venus. I’ll admit, it got to the point where I rolled my eyes every time it mentioned they had sex. Because that gets mentioned about half a dozen times in every chapter from Ben’s POV. It never bothered me, per se, but it got to the point where I just got fatigued from reading that kind of like how I got tired of hearing about Nynaeve tugging her braid during the Wheel of Time series. I get having character quirks, but there are times when they can be taken to the point where they are overused, like this one.

Overall, though, it was a fun and short read. It may not have been quite as good if this had been turned into a longer work. The length fit it well for what this was, and I am grateful I had the chance to read this one. If you like a little humor mixed into your Science Fiction and you are looking for a book you could potentially read in a day, this is definitely one that would be a nice match for you.

A fun and short read. #amreading #bookreview @AuthorDWiley #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: Bounty of the Everdark by Lilian Oake

Title: Bounty of the Everdark
Author: Lilian Oake
Genre: Fantasy
Amazon rating: 4.8 stars

Bounty of the EverdarkWhen Lorel, a dark elf of the Everdark, overhears a plot to kidnap a human queen for ransom, she’s determined to put a stop to the scheme before a war is begun between the races.

(A tale within the series of Jaydürian tales.)

Reviewed by: Emma T. Gitani

The Review:

Nice introduction into a well thought out fantasy world. Lorel is a dark elf with a bright beautiful heart. She overhears a plot to kidnap a human queen for ransom, and knows she must stop it. There’s a lot of oomph in this short story. Creatures are the way you expect them to be, and are easily imagined with the great descriptions without overdoing it. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to read it to my grandson next week! It would be a little advanced for younger readers by themselves but the story can be enjoyed by all. I hope to see more in this world very soon!

Can be enjoyed by all! #amreading #bookreview @emmatgitani #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: The Awakening of HK Derryberry

Title: The Awakening of HK Derryberry
Author: Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin
Genre: Non-fiction
Amazon rating: 4.9 stars

The Awakening of HK DerryberryHK Derryberry came into the world with the odds stacked heavily against him. He was taken from his unmarried mother’s womb three months prematurely when she was killed in a car wreck. After ninety-six days of seesawing between life and death, HK’s grandmother took him home.

One Saturday morning Jim Bradford, a successful businessman in his mid-fifties, happens into Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Biscuits and sees a nine-year-old’s head pressed down against a black plastic boom box with a crooked antenna and three strips of silver duct tape stretched across the battery cover. He can’t help but notice the long, white plastic braces on each of the child’s legs. Mr. Bradford learns that HK’s grandmother is forced to bring him to the fast-food restaurant where she works, leaving him to sit alone all day at a small table, with only his boom box for company. On subsequent Saturdays Jim feels drawn back to the restaurant to meet with HK and begins spending every weekend with him.

Eventually it becomes apparent that buried beneath HK’s severe disabilities is one spectacular ability. He is diagnosed with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), which involves superlative powers of recollection that enable him to remember everything that has happened to him since the age of three. Less than one hundred people have been diagnosed with HSAM, but none of them have the physical disabilities of HK Derryberry.

Reviewed by: Wendy Strain

The Review:

Randomly dropping in at the legendary Hollywood Café in Mississippi one night last year, my husband and I shared the joy as a new friend and his business partner celebrated the completion of a big project. Not too long after that, this friend sent me a copy of the finished product, a delightful book that can guide you toward regenerating joy in life.

Of course, the book and its authors make no such claims. The Awakening of H.K. Derryberry is really a book about the amazing relationship that developed between a man and a little boy he met one day, never suspecting this child would change his entire outlook on life. Beginning with the unusual pull that brought their two worlds together, the story reveals, in beautiful unfolding prose, the incredible richness of a life limited by need and capability as well as the surprising empty space in an otherwise rich life of fulfillment and success.

As Jim comes to know H.K. better, he learns the incredible story of the boy’s birth and survival; his blindness since birth; the cerebral palsy; the probable stroke suffered as an infant, partially paralyzing his right side; the asthma that occasionally stole his breath away. Within all these limitations, Jim discovers a magnetic spirit trapped inside the tiny body and the small diner where his grandmother and caretaker worked. His only friends were the sounds coming out of an old radio. As their relationship develops over the years, Jim Bradford is able to introduce H.K. to the world outside the diner as well as how to relate to it, providing H.K. with an unexpected wealth of opportunity and experience.

At the same time Jim is helping H.K. to develop, H.K. is constantly opening Jim’s eyes to elements of the world he’d become blind to, the simple joys of living and the happiness that emerges from within. At just over 200 pages, the book is a joy to read from beginning to end.  The story is told with such smooth, beautiful language, you will have no trouble joining Jim and H.K. in their dual experience of awakening. By the end, it’ll be a challenge not to look at life through a brighter lens. That is the magic of H.K.

A joy to read from beginning to end. #amreading #bookreview @WendyStrain #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: When Blood Falls by Joshua Robertson

Title: When Blood Falls
Author: Joshua Robertson
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Amazon rating: 4.8 stars

When Blood FallsDefending against the demons of the Deep has long given Tyr Og’s brethren purpose. When Tyr’s mother is robbed from him during childhood, he loses his will to live. Now, filled with rage and regret, Tyr hungers for a worthy death to bring an end to the futility of his life. In a short tale of blood and self-loathing, Tyr seeks the most honorable path to finally join his mother in the afterlife.

Reviewed by: Stephanie Ayers

The Review:

From the first page to the last, When Blood Falls is a fast paced read that leaves a distinct memory of one character Tyr Og in your mind long after you finish it. Robertson plays with your emotions in the best way possible as you go from feeling bad for this character to loathing him for his angry deeds to actually wishing for a turn of events and cheering for him in the end. I have never met another character quite like Tyr Og. His capacity for anger and the way he deals with it is haunting.

The story moves fast and is indeed very short, yet you are 100% satisfied at the end of it. Just the right amount of detail left my imagination flowing throughout this book, only slightly less gruesome than Robertson’s longer works. I do look forward to treading through the entire Thrice Nine Legends series one ghastly step at a time.

Left my imagination flowing. #amreading #bookreview @theauthorSAM #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: Southern Living Big Book of Christmas

Title: Southern Living Big Book of Christmas
Author: Editors of Southern Living Magazine
Genre: Crafts, Decorating
Amazon rating: 4.5 stars

Reviewed by: Nancy E. Miller

Southern Living Big Book of Christmas

This complete guide for the biggest holiday of the year inspires and delights with fresh ideas for cooking, baking, entertaining, and decorating, including:

• More than 340 kitchen-tested recipes
• 18 complete menus, perfect for any time of the year
• Nearly 400 full-color photos
• Over 100 seasonal how-tos and decorating ideas





The Review:

I’m a southern gal, born and bred. So when I found the Southern Living Big Book of Christmas, I grabbed it.  Southern Living magazine is known for its dynamic photography, decorating help, and, oh yes, the recipes.  This book delivers on all three aspects.

The first 84 pages are filled with visuals of Christmas entertaining. I would say ‘as only the South can’ but I’m sure every part of the country has wonderful decorating traditions. Even if you can’t afford a two hundred dollar floral display, you can take the idea, head to your nearest craft or thrift store and whip up your own version.

We went a little crazy with decorating this year. I guess I’ll need to buy more storage totes. Get on the mailing/email list for the craft stores and watch the sales. You can get great bargains right after Thanksgiving on home décor.

Oh my, the recipes.  The largest part of this book is dealing with food. Sumptuous, delicious, I’ve already tried some and have so many more marked to fix next.  Okay, so some of them are a bit on the naughty side.  It’s Christmas. First of the year will bring out all the magazines to help you lose the few extra pounds.

I’m not saying you can’t find healthy dishes. There are so many to choose from like Warm Bean Salad with Olives or Fresh Pork Sausage Patties. The latter is delish by the way.  Making your own means you know exactly what goes in it. Feel free to tweak it to your own tastes.

Then a section on Gifts from the Heart.  I love to give food gifts.  Yummy sweets, soup mixes, brittles, I’ve made them all and each year I look for the new and different. This book did not fail me.

Following up are recipes for after the great Christmas feast. You know, when the fridge is busting with leftovers and so are you.

I love this book and the kicker is that, since it was written in 2010, you can get new and used copies at a ridiculously low price on Amazon. You aren’t going to get it any better.

This book did not fail me. #bookreview #amreading Click To Tweet
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