Category Archives: Favorites

Stranger things have happened – Jeff Strand

If you’ve read any of my other reviews or gotten emails, you know that I love the writings of Jeff Strand. For me, he’s that author that just clicks. His style is always perfect – humorous and quirky.

But, Mr. Strand usually writes for adults. Most of his stories have some adult references and language, which you may not want your kids to be reading.

Well, wait no further. Jeff also has several YA novels! Not surprisingly, they are just as funny and quirky as his other books, but appropriate for a younger audience. Better, he gets feedback that boys like to read his work. Want something to get kids reading – try his stuff. While I read “Stranger Things Have Happened,” he also wrote one called “The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever Made”.

This book has a young magician getting into a weird and desperate situation. The characters pull you into their dilemma and remind you of someone you used to go to school with. I especially liked the talk about magic as it is a bit of a dying art. My other favorite part – the kid listens to ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic! Now, I know a lot of kids may not have heard of Weird Al, and this is a great way to introduce him. Every childhood needs a bit of Weird Al1

It’s hard to put this book down. Like I said, Jeff is one of my favorite authors and I think a lot of kids will enjoy his writings. If you’ve struggled to get kids to read, pick up a Jeff Strand YA novel.

The below link is an affiliate link that will take you to Amazon if you are interested in purchasing this book:

Riverstone Books – Pittsburgh, PA

This is a nice bookshop near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

There’s a lot to like about this bookstore.

The best thing is that the staff put index cards on the shelves for recommendations.

That’s always nice when the people that work at the bookstore can give personal recommendations.

They also have some reader book clubs and supply monthly books. The best thing was finding out that each summer they support a reading program for kids. I hope they can do it again this year. If interested in sponsoring this event, contact the store.

https://www.riverstonebookstore.com/

Last Exit Bookstore – Kent, Oh

I’ve been going to Last Exit Bookstore since they opened. We haven’t had a used bookstore in our area for quite a long time, so it’s nice to have one close by.

They opened close to KSU and catered to the college students – but they have changed and expanded. For a couple years, it seemed that every time I went in, they had a new section and new books to explore. At one point, Jason (the owner) purchased a collection of old science fiction magazines. I dug through those and found a true treasure – 2 of the Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines with the original Gunslinger stories that eventually became Stephen King’s Dark Tower series! Very exciting!

Now, they not only have a cafe where you can order great coffee and food, but they opened a whole new section that features great music – on LP! And classic books and more.

If you are in Kent, Ohio, make a stop and check out Last Exit books. Tell Jason hi. Just make sure you have time budgeted, you don’t want to rush through this one.

https://www.facebook.com/Last-Exit-Book-Store-124622894348655/

Books in Stock – Wooster, OH

Books in Stock home page

https://www.facebook.com/BooksInStock

Books in Stock (Wooster, Oh) is one of those bookstores that you just can’t help but browse forever. They have been in downtown Wooster for decades and offer a HUGE assortment of books, including some nice rare ones.

I had no trouble finding more than I needed to get. Along the way I discovered books I hadn’t known about and found books I hadn’t seen for a long time.

We visited during the towns winter window wonderland and it made the visit ever more enjoyable.

Say hi to Jennifer when you go!

Paperback Shack – Niles, Oh

This is a nice little bookstore, and it’s in an area that doesn’t have many bookstores. I’ve been wanting to visit because the owner used to do writing classes (which she may start doing again).

When I stopped, a girl was there getting her senior pictures. I thought that was pretty great. The owner said that they’ve been there for 11 years, but a lot of people still don’t know about them. Time to get the word out. They offer some products and services that I haven’t seen at other stores.

The store is divided into sections as most stores are. She also has mystery boxes of books in various genre’s. That’s a great thing I wish other stores did!

I did find a book that I’ve not seen in other bookstores (except the big chains). Not only that, they have books on writing which most independent bookstores don’t carry. That and the mystery boxes make this a unique place.

They do offer ordering and having items shipped, so it may be worth contacting them if you are looking for something.

email: thepaperbackshack@gmail.com

website: thepaperbackshack.com

Jeff Strand

First, a bit of a warning – Jeff Strand is not a MG writer. His focus is on horror, and a lot of comedic horror. But I think his writing is ok for a lot of kids. Read on and decide for yourself.

When I was 10, I started reading Stephen King, and he remains one of my favorite authors. I like horror books. I know a lot of kids do also. Look at the continuing popularity of Goosebumps.

I missed the Goosebumps explosion by being too old, but my kids loved them. If your kids have read R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and loved them, but have outgrown those books, Jeff Strand may be worth checking out.

Be warned – while most of his books are probably OK for mid-teen aged children, not all of them are. There might be some swearing in even the appropriate books, so beware. But he does have some books aimed at Middle Grade.

Strand’s writing is quirky and easy to read. He doesn’t try to get flowery and the pace of the books moves along. They are the type of book’s that are hard to put down and pause in reading the adventure. The first book of his that I read was Cyclop’s Road, and I kept at it almost nonstop because it was so good.

I mentioned Goosebumps above and one of the reasons I like Jeff Strand is that his books are like Goosebumps for adults. His books are something that you and your kids can enjoy.

One of his books, the Haunted Forest Tour, inspired me to write a short story. Check it out.

If your kids (or even you) are looking for a good horror, Jeff Strand fits the bill. If you’d like a good comedy horror, he is definitely your man.

 

Cupboardmaker Books – Enola, Pa

I’ll make this easy – this is one of my all time favorite bookstores. Ever. ‘Nuff said.

If you are in the Harrisburg Pennsylvania area, it is definitely worth a detour to get to this store. They have SOOOOO many books. And lots of books that I hadn’t found anywhere else were here. There is just so much to look through. Even my pre-teen was so excited that he looked through several shelves of books, which he doesn’t usually do.

The topper is that this is also a cat rescue. There are kitties everywhere and some very humorous signs about cats. If you like cats and books – and who doesn’t – this is worth going. In fact, our family has plans to do a several hour trip to include this.

The Dragonlance Chronicles

For my 16th birthday, my aunt gave me a fantasy book. She really  had no idea what I liked or what this book was about, she just knew I read a lot and that this was a new and hot book. Turns out it was one of the best birthday presents I ever got.

The Dragonlance Chronicles takes you on a journey to a fantasy world, similar to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. There are elves and magic and interesting places and creatures. I liked this series better because it was much easier to get into and digest. I could picture what was going on in my head and imaging the people and the world much better than I could when I read Tolkien.

The people you meet are extremely interesting. Tanis, their leader, isn’t a 2d doogooder. He is conflicted and has self-doubt. The magician Raistlin seems like a bad guy but may not be. The curious Kender, Tasslehoff, is easy to relate to and have fun with (he and the dwarf, Flint, remind me a bit of a couple of droids in one of my favorite movies.)

The book is good for older kids. There is some violence with fighting and people killing each other, but it’s not graphic. Similar to what’s in Lord of the Rings or in a movie like Iron Man. There is some hint at sexuality, which is why it’s recommended for older kids – say 14 and above as a guideline.

This is another of my all time favorite books. Most of my friends borrowed this and my original copy is so worn I don’t think I could actually read it without most of the pages falling out. The link below takes you to Amazon if you are interested (but the price is a bit higher than the $3 original cover price.)

Dragonlance Chronicles

The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill

This is one of my all time favorite books, but it’s probably one that most people don’t know.

In The Pushcart War, we journey back in time to the early 1900’s. Cities are bustling and filling with cars and trucks. Still, there are vendors selling out of pushcarts – kind of like large wheelbarrows and similar to a food vendor’s cart.

The times are in transition, and there is conflict between the pushcarts, that have controlled the streets for years, and the new trucks, who think they own the road. There is war.

The lighthearted way that commerce and unions are used in this book is what makes it so fascinating. And the fact that instead of guns, the pushcart people resort to … well, I’ll let you find out.

This may be a surprise hit with the kids. It’s engaging and whimsical. It may seem a bit outdated, but it doesn’t lose  any of the storytelling.

Appropriate for all ages.

The below link will take you to Amazon if you would like to get this one.

The Pushcart War – Jean Merrill

Sizzle book cover

Sizzle – Lee Mclain

First, full disclosure – I met Lee McClain several years ago. She and another author were talking books. I didn’t know either of them were authors and jumped in with my 2 cents. 🙂 Anyway, found out she writes christian romance, which isn’t a genre I like to read, but she said she had written this one Middle Grade book. Ok, that I would give a try to.

Now, as you may know, my favorite genre is fantasy. Sizzle is definitely not fantasy. I felt for the girl, Linda, because she really had a hard time. What she really wanted to do was cook, but seemed to be thwarted at every turn.

I know a lot of kids aren’t into fantasy, and that’s fine because there are so many books out there to meet any of their tastes (ha ha, I used tastes with a book about cooking.) This is a very clean book, but it takes kids to a world they may not be familiar with as there is a lot of focus on the main characters Mexican background. There is quite a bit of talk about the food she learned to cook. Maybe it would inspire kids to try foods from other countries, that’s great.

I also loved the Aunt that had a TV show called Cooking with Cans! That is so great – why don’t we have a real show like that. But I can really appreciate Linda wanting to cook with fresh ingredients. That’s how I grew up, and I think more kids should experience that but don’t get the chance to do so.

If you’re looking for a good book that your child can relate to, this is a great choice. If they are at all interested in cooking they can probably relate to the main character quite a bit.

The below link takes you to Amazon if you are interested in the book.

Sizzle on Amazon

German village book store – Columbus, Oh

Don’t you just love to walk into a book store? All the possibilities! And even better, is when you go into a bookstore that has quite a bit of atmosphere – you know, the kind that just calls to you and draws you in.

Books are fantastic travel companions. You can visit not only other places, but other times and even other planets. Anything you want, there is a book that can help you be there.

The great thing about the Book Loft in German Village (Columbus, Ohio), is that you can find most of the books you want to travel with and do it in a wonderful and unique setting. I mean, take a look at the picture – it’s so cool.

If you would like to pretend that you are an explorer and looking for a lost treasure, this is the place to do it. The layout is a bit chaotic, but each room is dedicated to a specific type of book or genre. It’s just not always an easy, straight course to get from one room to another. All it really needs is shifting staircases. Check out the video:

If you are looking for a book, this place probably has it. While they aren’t a used bookstore, the selection is phenomenal. If you are passing through the area, it is well worth stopping.

Call of the Wild – Jack London

Let’s take a journey back in time, to the gold rush of the late 1800’s. Let’s go, not to warm California like you may think, but further up north. In “Call of the Wild” you’ll visit the frozen area’s around Alaska and Canada, almost up to the north pole.
Our hero is a dog named Buck and we follow him as his journey takes him from his warm comfortable home to become a sled dog. Life isn’t easy and there is much he has to learn on the way, but he taps into the savagery of his ancestors and learns to survive.
This book presents many aspects to the days and life of prospectors. The dog sled team is charged with delivering supplies and mail. They are owned by incompetent people and cruel people, but also loving and kind people.
Join Buck on his journey from domesticated dog to wild animal.

Parents – I love Jack London and read this book when I was much younger. It may actually be less exciting for some kids in today’s world, so you might want to check it out a bit first, lest your child gets bored. This book would probably appeal to boys more than girls, though that by no means is saying girls won’t like it. The book is clean as far as adult situations and words go, but there is some savagery and brutality, so be aware. It is a reflection of the situation and times, but you may need to judge if that is something you want your kids exposed to.

Enjoy
SA Schneider – The Travel Guide

If you would like to order the book, the image below takes you to the paperback on Amazon. If you have a Kindle, you can get the Kindle version for free. There is also a link to the Gutenberg Project free version of the book. If you don’t know what the Gutenberg Project is, you can read a bit here.(Note: the Amazon link is an affiliate link.)

Call of the Wild

Scary stories free in the public domain

I hope those of you reading this blog also like to read other stories. Why would you follow an author if you didn’t like to read, right? 🙂

Through the years I have read quite a few books and one of my favorite genres is horror. Ever since I was a kid I loved to read scary ghost stories. I still have most of the books I had when I was younger and have been reading some of them over – still good stuff.

One of the benefits of the internet at this time in history is that quite a few of the classic stories we think of as scary are now free. Their copyright has expired and the works are now in the public domain, meaning anyone can get them to read for free. I’m not talking about illegal, pirated books.

This is absolutely wonderful, as some of these are great stories. Keep in mind that stories from 100+ years ago can be quite a bit different from today’s stories. There is more of an atmosphere about them. They seem to play on the senses or scare through subtleties in perception. Plus a lot of them aren’t scary stories so much as a statement on the day and age.

There is a site I love – The Gutenberg Project. This site has been trying to collect as many books and stories that are in the public domain as they possibly can. They want to preserve these books and stories and offer them for download on the website in various formats. If you’ve never been there, check it out.

We especially love to take trips to strange lands and frightening places at Halloween. A couple that may be of interest during Halloween time:

Frankenstein – not only is this arguably the first science fiction story it is also written by a woman, which is pretty fantastic for the time period. Take a trip back to a time when science was still very  much like magic. While you may be familiar with the various movies, the story is much more than that. Like many classic, Victorian-era stories, the true monster isn’t who we think. It is also a commentary on the new science that was evolving at this time and how man thinks they can play god. My kids have been reading and studying this in school, it really is worth a read if you never have.

Dracula – again, not what you would think. If you think you’re getting an action vampire movie of a story, think again. This is a pretty hefty book, but its very good. It is actually more of a love story than a scary ghost story, but I love the Victorian atmosphere, gothic in every sense, and how the story is so much more than we think of it today. Parents – this one is especially dark and may be a bit difficult for many kids to read. For the older teen and advanced reader, it may really spark their interest and imagination.

The Vampyre, a tale – not as well known, but may be the first vampire story. It’s short but a little harder to get through than some others. Worth reading if for no other reason than it’s the start of our modern vampire story. This one may especially be difficult for kids. Only recommended for the more advanced and older teen.

And if you think Nightmare Before Christmas is part Halloween and part Christmas, check out A Christmas Carol. Yup, the classic with Scrooge and the three ghosts. Did you ever wonder about ghosts in a Christmas story? It’s really a ghost story! I have read this story every year at Christmas as a tradition, but it fits equally well in October.

There are a few to get you started. If you like to read and want to travel to many distant lands, check this site out. There are so many good books you may be there a while and suddenly find your Kindle full.

Reading a Christmas Carol

Every year at Christmas, I read A Christmas Carol by Dickens and also Skipping Christmas by Grisham. If you’ve never read A Christmas Carol, you should. What other ghost story do you know set at Christmas? I discovered Skipping Christmas because I really like the movie based on it – Christmas with the Kranks. Both are good.
Oh, yeah, also, if you haven’t read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, it’s definitely worth checking out also.
We also have a tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Seuss on Christmas Eve.

What’s the best holiday story you’ve ever read? #ThrowbackThursday

If you would like your own copy of A Christmas Carol, the following link takes you to Amazon – A Christmas Carol